I spent the last week sick in bed at my Mother’s house, and among the panicked bathroom trips and bubbly fever dreams I clawed at a paperback of some of the dialogs of Plato.
It was a book from a critical writing class I took in community college, from one of my very favorite professors who taught me so much of what I know. It was then, reading Phaedo, that I remembered the story of his own encounter with Buddhism.
My memory betrays whether he was a layperson or a monastic, but his teacher had come to Buddhism directly via the first noble truth. He was a trucker, crisscrossing the country with the lived in experience of his own separation and sorrows and the stories of the hardships of others.
He knew this is suffering. Then, probably through some bookstore somewhere, he found the Dharma.
My professor encountered this teacher quite a bit later. When they met he was holding a small, weekly Dharma group out of a supporter’s home. Once a week the teacher would offer a talk and the group would share their stories. It was my professor’s first encounter with the Buddhist community.
I should continue by saying that my professor is not a Buddhist. He is a Catholic bordering on Orthodox, with an unwavering belief in God and in his constant presence. He describes himself as having encountered Buddhism “at a very important time.” His early twenties.
Greed comes from wanting things we do not have. Anger comes from the world being different from how we would like it to be. All of these things will change. What a way to cut through the narrative of pride and ambition of a twentysomething male.
After the talk, the group would have tea, served in once bright, now overwashed plastic cups, each with it’s own teabag. They would talk of the week and its spiritual triumphs and missteps. Then, one by one they would wash their cups and put them out to dry.
The group started to grow, as these things do, until it started to grow too large for the layperson’s living room. This is when one of the members decided to take an opportunity to give something nice to the sangha. She had her den entirely remodeled with shimmering white tile, bedecked with zafus and a stately shrine.
The group met in the remodeled den for the first week and there was plenty of room. There was a talk, a sit, and then it was time for tea. The host brought out a newly purchased porcelain tea set, giving each member a flawless cup and filling it with an amber stream from the set’s teapot.
One of the cups dropped to the floor and shattered.
In the weeks to come the room made more room for echoes, until my professor stopped going.