One of my old (or shall I say former, he’d hate to be called old) meditation students asked me if I wouldn’t mind accompanying him to the main regional NKT temple to hear a teaching. He was growing weary of the relentless cheerfulness of the teacher who had replaced me and was considering coming into the City for the weekly class if he liked the teacher better. So, I agreed to meet him for dinner and to take in a teaching at the temple.
It has been at least two months since I have attended anything sponsored by the NKT, which is the longest I’ve been away in the ten years I was involved. I’ve been off doing my own thing and enjoying it thoroughly. And during this time, I’ve been following the very busy NKT Survivors email discussion list, which validated that I was doing the right thing by leaving. Many people on that forum feel as if the NKT has done them great harm and feel quite angry, and/or are fully convinced that the NKT is an evil cult. I have been trying to maintain a mind of equanimity about the organization, and even gratitude for the dharma I have learned there.
It was odd to be in the temple again. So many beautiful statues and thangkas. It felt like the giant Buddha statue greeted me as an old friend. The room was filled with unfamiliar faces, but as I began to settle in I started seeing old, good “Buddha buds” scattered in the audience. The teacher was warm, unassuming and self-deprecating. Her teaching style gives you a lot of space to come to your own conclusions. Yet, because of everything I knew, everything I had been through I couldn’t completely relax into it.
It felt like seeing an ex-boyfriend with whom you had an amicable break. He wasn’t a bad guy, in fact he had a lot of good qualities. But, there were reasons why you broke up. Good reasons. Yet, when you see him again you are drawn in by the familiarity, the acceptance and all the good memories. You start to trivialize all the bad stuff – he wasn’t really all that bad. Sure, maybe he could be a little creepy and controlling at times, but isn’t that what intimacy is all about? I mean, once you get close enough, everyone can seem at least a little creepy, right? Right?
That draw of familiarity and acceptance is powerful. It’s probably the same dynamic that keeps people in bad, even destructive, relationships. It would be so easy to just stay. No questing, no questioning. Take the bad with the good. If I could just focus on my practice and not pay attention to all the annoying merit grabbers or some of the more cult-like aspects of the organization, it would be fine, just fine. Here have a homemade cookie. Have a cup of kool-aid . . .
No. No thank you.
The quest continues. My friends and I have a meeting in a couple of weeks with the teacher from the Dakini Temple, Anan Thubten Rinpoche. We opted to meet with him together as we are all NKT refugees and have similar questions and concerns. I’ve been to three of his teachings so far and I’ve been impressed (for lack of a better word). There is also another trip or two scheduled out to Spirit Rock, and another teacher I would like to check just across the Bay. And the writings of Pema Chodron continue to touch my heart and blow my mind.
And I just keep a-stumblin’ . . .