In 1974 I had hitchhiked and bus-hopped overland from Amsterdam to India on an indefinite spiritual quest. India was going to be the place; holy men under every tree, serenity, yoga, ashrams; might even spend my days in some remote mountain cave…I got it right in a way, though I had imagined the signs wrongly.
As it turned out, truth presented the same images as she had shown to the Buddha: images of sickness and degeneration. It was no picture show, but rather four months lived out through dazed wandering with amoebic dysentery while my assumptions about normal life steadily fell away.
My life view had always been one in which I could do unpredictable things but unpredictable things would not be done to me. But in India human helplessness became apparent—there was no hiding it behind a technological smoke screen—and even more undermining was the fact that here people were not running away from that impotence. In fact they had a strange strength within their powerlessness. They knew, or imagined, God.
For me, the last messenger appeared in Thailand, whence I fled once I had the strength and the wits to do so. A meditation class caught my attention in Chiang Mai. It presented the possibility of finding a calm inner space within which to check out my life. One class was just a taste; then early one morning sitting in a cafe, I saw the bhikkhus from a local monastery walking on alms round.
They were in a line, barefoot in the dusty road, walking toward me. The rising sun glowed through their brown robes. Each bhikkhu had only a simple alms bowl with him, and their faces were serene and gentle. Their walking was calm and unhurried. The weight of years of self-importance lifted off my heart; something soared within me like a bird at dawn.
So, incredibly enough, I became a Buddhist monk.
This reflection by Ajahn Sucitto is from the book, Where Are You Going? Part 1 Rude Awakenings, (pdf) pp. 12-13.