But it was the end of the road, at least in a manner of speaking (although, as the cliché goes, every end is also...), as after two-hundred, forty-six days and ten countries, I now sit back in the good old badlands of New Jersey.
Home. The United States of America. Where I can flip the switch at any time of day or night and the lights will come on. Where there will always be internet access or a television to turn on or music to listen to. But the luxury isn't without cost. Because here I won't be spending any nights learning new card games by candlelight. I won't be having nightly dharma discussions trying to wrap my head around emptiness or theorizing about pure lands or commiserating over the truth of suffering.
Here in America not every purchase is a fight. No bargaining is required to take a taxi or get a haircut or buy a bottle of water. But if I want a new shirt, I may end up paying sixty dollars for something that cost four bucks to manufacture, because it's the "right" price.
I can get anywhere I need to go on a smoothly paved road, without sharing my seat with an unknown child or a slumbering Nepali. But I won't be flagging down a flatbed truck in the middle of the night, riding through the nighttime wind on top of bags of grain under Southern Hemisphere stars. I won't be - wouldn't be allowed to be - riding on the roof of a minibus, watching Asian mountain peaks pass me by as I share a lift with the thirty-five people below me, packed into a bus for made for twenty. I'll have a hard time hitchhiking out of a desert or into an airport.
Downstairs is a refrigerator filled with fresh and chilled food, a ridiculous assortment of available things to eat. But here I won't be pointing to an unreadable language on a menu, playing meal roulette and gambling that what is delivered to my table will be edible. I'm going to be hard-pressed to find authentic injera. And even in New York City, it will be impossible to chow down on a legitimately delicious Indian Curry (believe me, I've tried).
In the US, I can relax in the comfort of the concept of personal space. I can walk down the street or sit at a table alone in peace, without being yelled at, grabbed onto or subjected to an inquisition. But no one here is going to be taking an hour out of their day to escort me to a train station, conversing only in hand gestures and smiles. No strangers will be inviting me into their home to share a coffee or offer what little food they have available. No one will be saying hello, only to immediately follow their introduction with a request for my email address in the hopes we can be pen-pals.
Here at home I have a family, people who care for me, who know my history, who will take care of me if I get sick or hurt. So that's nice.
I've enjoyed writing this little web-log. I can't really say what's coming up for me in the next few months or years, so who knows, if you're bored enough to check and I'm bored enough to write, maybe we'll continue to have a virtual meeting of the minds in the blogosphere!
Back at Kopan Monastery in Nepal we learned to end virtually everything - days, meditation sits, teaching sessions - by dedicating to the benefit of others the fruits of whatever we had done. Now seems like a good time to do a little dedication of our own, and so below I share my favorite dedication prayer (and also the favorite dedication prayer of His Holiness... we have so much in common!). Enjoy, meditate, roll your eyes.... whatever makes you comfortable.
Thanks for following along!
From Master Shantideva's "Bodhicharyavatara" (a.k.a."Guide to the Bodhissatva's Way of Life"):
May all beings everywhere
Plagued by sufferings of body and mind
Obtain an ocean of happiness and joy
By virtue of my merits.
May no living creature suffer,
Commit evil, or ever fall ill.
May no one be afraid or belittled,
With a mind weighed down by depression.
May the blind see forms
And the deaf hear sounds.
May those whose bodies are worn with toil
Be restored on finding repose.
May the naked find clothing,
the hungry find food;
May the thirsty find water
And delicious drinks.
May the poor find wealth,
Those weak with sorrow find joy;
May the forlorn find hope,
Constant happiness, and prosperity.
May there be timely rains
And bountiful harvests;
May all medicines be effective
And wholesome prayers bear fruit.
May all who are sick and ill
Quickly be freed from their ailments.
Whatever diseases there are in the world,
May they never occur again.
May the frightened cease to be afraid
And those bound be freed;
May the powerless find power,
And may people think of benefitting each other.
For as long as space remains,
For as long as sentient beings remain,
Until then may I too remain
To dispel the miseries of the world.