One of the reasons I had stayed in the NKT study program for a decade was a belief that I needed the structure of the twice-weekly classes in order to maintain my practice. There was a fear that I would lapse into complete spiritual lethargy without my regular infusions of dharma. Perhaps that was true for a period. I don’t know where the turning point was, I suspect it was sometime in the last year, but I no longer need that crutch of having my dharma spoon-fed and pre-digested for me.
With the loss of my teacher and my community, I found that I still craved the dharma. I still craved my practice. It was no longer an obligation, but something I loved. While we were always encouraged to find the dharma everywhere, now that there isn’t a physical space that is the focus of my spiritual life, I and try and see the dharma in everything. And I am surrounded by kind teachers! My elderly cat Alaska, once so robust and active now so skinny and subdued, reminds me each day of death and impermanence. Sasquatch, who lost his mind last month and sent me to the ER, reminds me to be patient and compassionate even with those who harm me. With Mr. Binkles, the hyperactive rabbit, I am constantly reminded to stay in the moment. With my friends and partner, I try to increase my love and decrease my attachment. And work is forever a practice in patience. The dharma is everywhere, like air. And like air, I have found it is essential to my life.
My future with the NKT is uncertain. I know too much now about its problems. And while no organization is perfect, I am disturbed by the expansionist policies that emphasize growth of the organization over the health and mental well-being of the individuals. I am disturbed by what seems to be a cover-up of the widespread sexual escapades of many of the senior teachers. I am tired of the dogma and the pressure to “gain merit” by giving ever-increasing amounts of time and money to the center.
Is the NKT a cult? I don’t know. It certainly displays some cultish qualities. Yet from my own experience, it only felt like a cult when I let down my healthy boundaries and let it take over my life. But, then again in those first nine years, because of my “faith issues”, I never fully jumped in, but rather stayed on the shore splashing about and it felt quite pleasant. There was no chance of drowning.
Where do I go from here? Explore more dharma. Read books, listen to teachings online, and try new dharma centers. And just continue to stumble along the path.
Excuse me, I need to go meditate now. Thank you for reading.