Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Dharma Project

My first real introduction to the teachings of the Buddha (the "Dharma") came in the form of a book I read when I was in college: Awakening the Buddha Within, by Lama Surya Das.  Lama Das - originally Jeffrey Miller, a Jewish guy from Long Island - had given up a possible future as a New York City attorney to move to the east, study Buddhism, and become a highly regarded teacher in the Tibetan tradition.  For many years Awakening sat unopened in a prominent place on my bookshelf, and I consequently forgot the specifics of Lama Das' story, such as where he had gone to study the Dharma. Nonetheless, the book had inspired me and set off a chain of events such that nine years after I originally opened the book, I found myself sitting in a newly-constructed library at the top of Kopan Hill, surrounded by gleaming snow-covered Himalayan mountaintops, re-reading the first sentences of Awakening:

 I am in a small, clay, mud-floored hut at the top of Kopan Hill, surrounded by gleaming snow-covered Himalayan mountaintops.


Being that one of the days at the monastery coincided with my ten year high school reunion, I couldn't help but imagine how the Noah that graduated Holmdel High School (go Hornets!) in 2000 would react to this news if the Noah of today could let him know.

29 year old Noah:  Hey buddy.

18 year old Noah:  Ugh, what do you want?

29:  Wow, you really are a dick.  Just thought you might be interested in the reason why you were unable to attend your ten year high school reunion.

18:  Was listening to some sick beats at club Exit, I have to assume. 

29:  Actually, you were spending 6 weeks in a monastery in Nepal.

18:  WHAT?!?  A monastery?  But I just finished a Bertrand Russell book while listening to my favorite Bad Religion album.  You were in a MONASTERY?

29:  Yea, well actually a Buddhist monastery.

18:  Buddhism, huh?  Can you light yourself on fire like the guy on the cover of the Rage Against the Machine Album??  Cause that would be SWEET!

29:  That WOULD be sweet, but unfortunately I'm not confident that after six weeks of study my meditative absorbtion is at a point to allow self-immolation.

18:  Six weeks?!  I hope you brought your discman.

29:  Actually these days we listen to music on i-po....  Nope, no discman.  No music.

18:  No music?  You have your guitar at least?

29:  No guitar.

18:  No guitar?!

29:  No guitar.  No TV, no movies, no internet, no non-dharma books, no magazines.  You get the point. 

18:  Jeez, weirdo.  Well, how was it?

29:  Yea, the experience doesn't lend itself to being described really.

18:  Ok, well thanks for bringing it up then.

29:  From a cultural point of view, it was an amazing and unique opportunity to make a Tibetan monastery home for a period of time and be a part of its daily routine.  Listening to the monks chanting each morning and night, taking part in their rituals, dodging their flying arms while walking through their debates, watching the flow of daily tourists come and go.

18:  Sounds boring.  Can we get down to business now?  WHERE is the sports almanac from the future so I can become rich by gambling?

29:  Stop watching so many movies.  Also, take the few coins you have and invest in Apple and Google.  Stay away from gin and girls named Doris, hide out on the docks when the cops come to Craig's, and bet on the Giants to win Superbowl XLII.

18:  Doris?  You mean you're not married to Amanda??

29:  Oh, buddy.  And shave that ridiculous strip of hair off your chin.

18:  Look who's talking.

The most perceptive of you may have noticed that the subtitle of the blog has been modified.  One of the great and profound revelations I had at the monastery was that the name of the blog, "No-Blog", could be misinterpreted to be a play on my name.  This was not my intention, as that would be terribly, unbearably corny.  Instead, the intent was to make a play on the Buddhist concept of emptiness (e.g., no-self), which is terribly, unbearably corny AND terribly, unbearably geeky.  As for what the new words really mean, well I've spent the past few years and the greater part of the past six weeks trying to figure that out, so if anyone knows, let me in on it!

Here are some pictures.

Pictures and links, I'm getting this blog thing down!


  1. Great to have you back! You are an amazing writer. Missing you and wishing you more gratifying adventures and discoveries on your journey. Love Aunt Karen (and Uncle Bruce)

  2. Noah,

    pure insight into noah at 18. So funny! i hope you are having a wonderful time and sorry it took me so long to read it. I hope we can skype soon. wait till you see your niece!


  3. I can actually hear you speaking that 18 year old conversation...pretty dead on :) your trip sounds pretty amazing...keep writing! ~Amanda