I just read The Monk and the Philosopher, a best-selling book in Europe for a number of years. It’s written by the distinguished philosopher Jean-Francois Revel and his son, Matthieu Ricard, France’s most celebrated Buddhist monk. This is a wonderful tale about the path to enlightenment. If you’re looking to take some time for introspection and reflection, take this book along with you; it’s a good start to getting serious about what we are doing here.
Matthieu Ricard was a 25-year-old Parisian jet-setter from an exceptional, intellectually gifted family who was surrounded by artists and intellectuals. He had read Socrates and St. Francis but felt he was missing something and that his life was slipping through his hands. He had the facts but was missing the soul; he wanted to sit at the foot of a wise man who could teach him practical wisdom.
He happened to be watching a documentary about the Tibetan Buddhist masters who fled the Chinese invasion and were living in India. He thought these monks might be approachable and decided to go to the Himalayas. There he found his first teacher, Kangyur Rinpoche. He sat in front of him for three weeks without exchanging a word, but Matthieu was moved at a deep level; he experienced the strength, serenity and a love that emanated from the Rinpoche so intensely that he said it opened his mind.
When I was 25 I had a similar mind opening experience. I arrived in Indian country to work as a family doctor; a newly minted physician, I thought I was hot and couldn’t wait to share my therapeutic brilliance. The vagaries of life and death etched away at my certainties, and I was feeling the reality of my limitations. That’s when I met an old medicine man who asked me where I learned how to heal. After I recited my litany of academic achievement, he told me if I wanted to be a healer, I had to learn how to dance to my own music; that encounter changed my life.
When my friend Swamiji (Schlagbyte, 9/20/04) was 25, he was working for his father in the family hardware business which left him unfulfilled and wanting some spark to light his inner fire. He went to the ashram in Pondicherry founded by the visionary yogi Sri Aurobindo. That’s where he saw the face of God who directed him to found a new teaching and healing community.
As a psychiatrist who once believed sitting in an office several times a week and rehashing the traumas of your life was the way to open your mind, it was an awakening to discover that the mind is opened like a bolt of lightening.
All that is required for opening your mind is to be prepared and find yourself in the right place at the right time.