The Buddha’s Apprentices - Foreword
by Sharon Salzberg
This is a book about beginnings—the spiritual beginnings of teenagers, of adults now in their twenties and thirties, and of some well-known Buddhists who look back over the decades to their early years of Buddhist practice. There is a moment, for all of us, when the threads of our conditioning and interactions and experiences and influences come together in a certain way, and our spiritual journey is launched. The suffering we have gone through, the inspiration we have been lifted by, the doors we have seen opening before us embolden us to leave the convenient and familiar, and venture forth.
My own journey began, as it does for so many others, in college. At a young age, I lost both my parents, and was raised by a succession of family members. I spent most of my time hiding my feelings, or distorting them, so that no one would really know how sad I was. When I was sixteen, I enrolled at the State University of New York at Buffalo. When I heard about an Asian philosophy course on Buddhism, I signed up, and discovered that the only time I really came alive was for an hour and a half on Tuesdays and Thursdays during that class. As time went on, and I learned more about the Buddha’s teaching, I found myself beginning to wonder if I too might one day be truly happy. Maybe there was a path to freedom from suffering after all.
When I learned about a junior-year-abroad program, I felt ready to leave everything in order to travel to India, a place about which I knew nothing, in the hopes that I might learn to meditate. The discovery of the practical tools of meditation and the liberating path of Buddhism proved to be a compelling life direction from which I have never turned away.
Over the last thirty years, I have met other like-minded practitioners along the way who are beginning a spiritual path. Their friendship, encouragement, and advice have made all the difference in my own search. Reading the essays in this book is like an encounter with spiritual friends—friends whose support and shared stories affirm our own experience, opening us to the uniqueness of our own path.
I first met Sumi Loundon when she was sixteen, at a time when few young adults came through the doors of the meditation center where I teach in Barre, Massachusetts. Today, a noticeable proportion of those attending retreats and working on staff at the Insight Meditation Society is under forty, reflecting a new generational wave in American Dharma centers overall. The sincerity and energy of these young seekers is refreshing. Likewise, this timely anthology is full of the eagerness and curiosity with which we begin our spiritual journey. Sumi has gathered wonderful reflections here, which range from the tentative first steps of teens laying down their first thoughts on paper to the thoughtfulness of the distinguished teachers who lend their voices to this collection.
I have delighted in the playfulness and power of these diverse stories, and hope this book serves as a special companion in your own path to awakening.