Just what so intensely motivated her father-to-be to quit everything so he could retreat into monastic Buddhist practice for three years? It’s a question that’s impossible to answer fully. (My parallel experience of living on a yoga farm is the basis of my newest novel, Yoga Bootcamp.)
Still, I’m required to try. In a passage from an earlier draft of my novel What’s Left, the explanation went this way:
Thea Nita suggested another take. Your Baba yearned for the highs, she says.
What about drugs?
You don’t think that was a problem, she counters. Don’t you think I wasn’t worried, at least until Rinpoche came into the picture?
Well, I’d wondered about that with my uncles, too – that whole hippie thing?
Oh, that? Nita chuckles and admits it posed a danger, especially before she returned to town. Barney, especially, enjoyed being stoned when he could. As she says, that could present problems in a commercial kitchen.
And then? They learned they could get a natural high through meditation – if they steered clear of drugs, as they did when Baba, by then a militant practicing Buddhist, entered the scene. Besides, there was no escaping the reality we all had work to do – and it better be done right.
As Rinpoche told Cassia about her father:
He needed the lightness and even playfulness he encountered in the Tibetan Buddhism – the high, in fact – that he hadn’t found in his Christian past. To be fair, I am finding indications he was discovering that in the Judeo-Christian side, too, during his final years. What a loss, then.
Oh, I’m so glad she stopped talking like this! In the final version, she’s pretty snippy.
And then there was her mother’s presence, as Rinpoche explained:
Your Baba found his missing half in Manoula and through her, his place in this world. But he always sensed there was more to life. The rabbi here tells me that when Moses came down from the mountain, he carried two tablets. The first one was about man’s relationship to God, and the second one was about relating to each other. So your Baba was working on something like that. He sometimes referred to it as finding the right balance.
And that mountain?
It was about all that would hold him down. For now. Maybe they were well matched.
Here we are talking about religion, and I see the question turning to something unexpectedly related:
What makes you smile?