In my life as a Buddhist practitioner, I have gone from early days with the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order (now Triratna) to primarily Geluk Tibetan teachings, to Vipassana, to a bit of a mix of a few parts Zen and a few parts Theravāda. I sometimes tell people about this and their expression is exasperation, or sometimes confusion. “This isn’t the way it’s supposed to be done,” they sometimes say.
Yet here I am. And in general, if they care to hear a bit more and I explain my various geographic wanderings, it begins to make more sense to them. It is not that I am unstable or flighty or incapable of choosing; it’s just that my circumstances have changed a lot over the years and I have had to be adaptive and change with them in order to grow, to have community (sangha) nearby, and to develop my practice.
As I’ve moved from the US to the UK and back again, and back and to India and now Hong Kong, I’ve had to re-assess potential sanghas. Or, as some people do, I could stick with “my tradition” but alone, or connected only through the internet or telephone with teachers and fellow practitioners. For whatever reason, I have never felt so connected to (or limited by) any particular tradition that I needed to do that. Instead I sought out new community, humans in flesh and blood, everywhere I’ve gone. This has brought me to many different Buddhist groups and even to Unitarian Universalism.
As a bee gathering nectar does not harm or disturb the color and fragrance of the flower; so do the wise move through the world. – Dhammapada: Flowers, verse 49
There is a certain “going with the flow” to all of this. And yet there is also a “going deeper,” or, I hope, a “gathering nectar” in the process. With each new tradition I learn more about the depths and complexities of human history and the many ways sincere religious practitioners have sought to make sense of themselves and their world. I take part, I diligently practice, I endeavor to not impose my own will on these groups.
I continue to grow and learn. And along the way I am lucky enough also to teach, thus giving back to the world some of what I have so kindly been offered. Though making no claim to be “the wise,” I do hope this in some way puts me on the same general path as so many of those I have considered wise before me.