My Blackjack Anniversary

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Eating Hall Feb 7 2022

Today is my 21rst anniversary for when I first got ordained as a monk on February 7th, 2001. As you know there was a hiccup and I ordained twice (back to back) leaving me with an official age of 15 years. However, the total years is 21 and this is my blackjack year when I first got my name.

There were many reasons why I wanted to ordain as a Buddhist Monk. The desire to reach Nibbāna was the main reason, but there were other reasons such as,

  • To meditate as much as I want (to reach Nibbāna)
  • To study the Buddhist Texts as much as I want
  • To learn Pāḷi
  • To be able to live without money
  • To go for alms, especially in Hawai’i but also in Asia (Sri Lanka is one of the best places for that).
  • To wear monk’s robes
  • To live the simple life of a monk
  • To have a great meditation master
  • To live with a great community of monks
  • In general, living the life that I read about in the Buddhist Texts

As you can see from many posts on this blog, I’m able to reach many of the goals I have originally set out to do, but not all or the best of them (yet). I get much satisfaction from simply living the simple life as a monk. I have not gotten tired of it, and I hope I never do get tired of it. I’m still appreciative to the point where I can get choked up if I talk long enough about how grateful I am for this life. Getting choked up about how happy I am with this life is not something that just happened once or twice in 21 years. Instead, it is something that happens several times per year. I don’t count, but maybe I should. I would guess it has happened maybe 4-10 times per year for the past 6 or 7 years. As I get older in monk years, people ask me questions about monk life and the topic comes up often.

What happens when I get choked up? It usually happens when I’m talking about how grateful I am for this life. First, I get that lump in my throat and it is difficult to continue speaking. At the same time, there is rush or pressure that starts from the throat or lower jaw bone on both sides and rises up through the cheeks and then into the eyes. The eyes become lubricated and if I don’t stop everything I’m doing at that moment, tears will start to roll.

Here is a quote from Going For Broke before I learned how to stop speaking before overflow point.

I once had a visitor from America. He brought a video camera with him and asked me the David Byrne Question, “Well, how did I get here?” So I proceeded to tell him the story about how I first got turned on to meditation, how I decided to leave my job, the watch story, the Sai Baba slipper story, WPN and of course The Ordination Story. I completed the 30 minute saga with the phrase “So…Here I am, Bhikkhu Subhūti!” while stroking the robes that I was wearing. I then thought about how I would explain the different adventures that I’ve had and all the exciting things I’ve done and then say that this experience has surely been the best. So I followed that thought and started to say, “You know…I’ve done a lot of …” but something happened at that moment. A big lump formed in my throat and I felt my eyes start to well up. I couldn’t go on much longer. I cut everything short and finished abruptly with,”… But this has made me the most happy!” with a quivering voice. At this time, tears were falling down my face and I couldn’t speak any more. I couldn’t even speak to tell the person who was filming me to stop. I could only wave my hand and do some “cut” director sign language to tell him to stop.

Going For Broke, maybe 2003 (I guess there is a video recording of this particular event somewhere).

Here is a quote from Going For Broke written about the first few months when I ordained. I still say the same “make-you-gag-lovey-dovey” stuff today.

So, I’m quite happy with the life as a monk. In fact, very happy. The other day, I was washing my bowl (something we do before every meal) with a big smile on my face when a German bhikkhu asked me why I was smiling. I told him that we are so lucky to live this life as a bhikkhu. He looks at me and says, “What makes you think this all of a sudden?” I responded, “I think this nearly everyday. Just as a man who is in love with a woman can tell her that he loves her as many times as he wishes, so too can a bhikkhu rejoice in his bhikkhu life!”

Going For Broke

The monk who asked me why I was smiling immediately told me that he should reflect on this more often and that he would write that down. Five or six years later, I visited him in his kuti, and on his wall was my quote. He is a very senior monk today and living in Sri Lanka, but sadly, he is not in good health.

I’m very happy with my life in similar ways… and I think I have said the same phrase a few times this year already. Recently, a monk from China told me that I was like a dolphin to him. When I asked why, he said that dolphins are always smiling.

May you all be happy and healthy and attain the most wholesome goals available.

Me in front of my kuti Feb 7, 2022

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