Part 1 of Bodhena’s Adventures in Samsara
I started out as a rather straight kid, growing up in a middle-class environment in a small town in the Harz Mountains of northern Germany. Now, many years later, I find myself living in the same place again, but I have changed in a way that I never imagined possible. I seem to have come full circle, in a sense. Yet, when I encounter the people around me, I see myself quite a bit at odds with them. They mirror very much the aspirations and value systems that I had been conditioned with, and I can’t say that I feel very much at home in that world any more. I have often scratched my head and wondered, “How the fuck did I get here? What’s been happening?” Nowadays I see my first priority in life that of being a spiritual seeker, and I guess most people would think I’ve gone nuts if I told them how I perceive reality, really. Sure, where they’re coming from, they’re right. Not much of a problem.
If I look back now, I can see that the seeds had always been there, but they needed time and a suitable environment to start to open and grow. And by no means do I have the impression that the journey is finished now. On the contrary. Outwardly, it may not appear as dramatic any more, but I know that certain processes have been started that have gained their own momentum.
These days, I have pretty much retreated into my own bubble and I feel quite at peace with myself and “the world”. I still believe that the socio-economic system that is being practised nowadays is a rather screwed-up way of dealing with reality, but looking at it from the perspective of the Dharma has enabled me to come to terms with it. It is a system rooted in a profound ignorance, and out of this all that suffering is created that we can see around us. For me, that leaves really only one way out, which is in. I don’t see much of a need to go about messing around with any of the symptoms, I’ll leave that to the experts like Mother Theresa and other do-gooders. Let the dead bury the dead.
If anything, this tells me that I have integrated some of my lessons to the point where I can be out here and hold my own, without falling flat on my back. I know I will have to face some issues that I feel lurking underneath the surface, but that will happen when the time is right for it. Nothing to worry about.
So here and now I’ll sit down and try to recollect and reflect on some of the stations along the way. And yes, I know … someday the river is going to take me home.
Looking back, my childhood seems to have been quite uneventful. There are a few things that stick out, though. I have always loved nature, and as a kid I was an avid boy scout, crawling around in the woods, going on hikes and camping trips. In time, my interest shifted and I gradually became more interested in going to our local Beatkeller to listen to live rock groups. I loved rock music, the rebelliousness and aliveness of it, and as far as I can recall I was the first Beatles fan in town.
I also loved to read, preferably adventuresome stories about far away places. So when the first opportunity presented itself to go to one, I took it without thinking twice, and with 17 went to America for a year as an exchange student. I stayed with a very nice family in a small town in Michigan, went to high school and took to life there like a duck takes to water. By the time I returned my conditioning had undergone a significant workover, and it took me a few years to balance out some of the effects.
It wasn’t until I left my home town and moved to Giessen to attend university that I finally started to get rolling. The sixties might have been over by then, but the seventies that were wild enough themselves had started, and I just couldn’t ignore the pervading zeitgeist. There was something in me that began to question what I saw happening around me. The first layer that I hit was the socio-economic one, and the result was that I experienced a considerable drift to the left. Yet, as much as my new insights appeared to be true to me, I didn’t get involved in the left scene too much. The guys that frequented certain pubs and hung out there until late at night over many a beer, discussing revolutionary strategies with the smoke of self-rolled cigarettes hanging in the air, to me seemed to be lacking something.
So I continued to question, and more and more became interested in spiritual topics. To look for answers within the framework of the established Christian religions was out of the question for me. I had been raised as a protestant, but already several years before had quit my membership in the church (very much to the dismay of my parents). I read a few books on eastern mysticism, became a vegetarian, started to do yoga asanas on a regular basis, and eventually got initiated into TM, that I practised for about a year. However, none of the New Age groups that I came into contact with attracted me very much, neither the Ananda Marga, nor the Hare Krishna, and to me there was something not quite right about that smile that the TM people were wearing perpetually (although the Maharishi seemed to be a nice enough guy – at least he had long hair). And as far as the Jesus Freaks were concerned, well, just forget it.
More than anything else it was traveling that gave my life a sense of purpose in those years. In 1970, I went on a four week trip through France and Spain. Hitchhiking most of the way, I eventually made it across the Strait of Gibraltar to Tangier, where I stayed for a week, my first taste of the Orient (and I also for the first time felt the wrath of Montezuma’s Revenge).
In 1971, now at university, I had my first long summer vacation. During those years, as I had learned, the overland route to India was open, and it had increasingly become an in-thing to go there, so I decided to give it a try. I wasn’t so much focused on India, I rather wanted to see how far I would get, and what was out there. By chance I had met an Iranian student who wanted to go home for the summer and who was looking for somebody to share the ride in his Volksporsche, a cute, two-seated sportscar. That got me as far as Teheran, and the fun was only starting. I continued by train to Mashhad, crossed over into Afghanistan, and embarked on a grueling 24-hour bus ride to Kabul, during which I had my first chillum of black Afghan. Man, Afghanistan was wild, the land, the people, everything. I loved it. There were literally thousands of people on the move along that route to India, hippies, backpackers, students, going or coming. Kabul was one of the places that was very popular as a rest stop along the way. I ended up staying there for a few weeks, and also went for a trip up into the mountains, to the ancient Buddha statues of Bamiyan and to those beautiful deep blue lakes of Band-i-Amir.
Eventually, I decided to move on, together with a high school friend I’d run into on the street in Kabul. I crossed the Khyber Pass into Pakistan, and on August 5 finally made it into India. By the time I had made it across the border near the town of Ferozepore, it was dark, and I got on a bicycle rickshaw to take me there. We moved along a dark Indian country road that was bordered by mysterious swamps, listening to the cacophony of the frogs that lived there.
There was a full moon hanging in the sky, and the air was heavy with the sweet smell of jasmine and what not else. And deep down inside, maybe faint, but still so much present that I couldn’t help noticing, I had a feeling of coming home. I went as far as Delhi and Agra, and realized that at that point India was a bit too much of a bite for me to swallow. But I knew that I would be coming back someday for more.
From Bodhena’s Adventures in Samsara – read more excerpts…
Bodhena took sannyas in the late seventies in Pune where he worked first as a handyman for the group department, then as a Krishna Guard. After living in Geetam for a few months, he was invited to the Ranch where he worked in construction, security, Magdalena Cafeteria, Chaitanya (accounts) and as a paralegal at Rajneesh Legal Services. In early Pune II he worked for the Rajneesh Times, and then again as a guard at Lao Tzu House. In recent years, he has been living in Clausthal, Germany, practising nowhere to go and nothing to do. bodhena (at) hotmail (dot) com