The director of the Ethics Initiative at the MIT Media Lab tells the compelling story of how he evolved away from his Hindu Brahmin background to become a Buddhist monk.
Priyadarshi was 10 years old when he first received the call to abandon “the comfort zone of the familiar, with its false sense of certainty and complacent promises.” After awakening from a recurring dream of a Japanese Buddhist monk, he left his school dormitory in Kolkata and traveled to a Buddhist temple several hours away in Rajgir. There, he found a photograph of the man he had seen in his dreams and met a monk named Nabatame who told Priyadarshi that he had been “expect[ed].” By the time his uncle found him, Priyadarshi knew that his mission was to follow the teachings of the Buddha. Forced to return home, he fought to carry on with a plan that went against what was expected of him as the member of a Brahmin family. He reached an uneasy truce with his parents only after he promised to continue his schooling by day and attend prayer sessions at the local Buddhist temple before dawn and at night. In the years that followed, he traveled to other Buddhist temples in India and Nepal. Later, he failed his university entrance exams so that he could become a fully ordained monk. His family then sent him to live with an uncle in New York, where he attended college and studied world religions. A scholarship to study abroad for a year returned him to India, where he continued the monastic education that would culminate in ordination. Later, the author attended Harvard Divinity School and became a visiting scholar at MIT, where he began an interdisciplinary dialogue about ethics that evolved into the Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values. In this wise and searching journey Priyadarshi fearlessly engages with the mystery of life and explores the visible and invisible connections that comprise our “vast web” of being.
A spiritual memoir with plenty of food for thought.