A Young Man's Escape from America
February 8, 2010
I am 25 years old. I was born and grew up in a suburb of Dallas, Texas. I went to an expensive private school for most of my schooling. I got my first car at age 16, my second car at age 17, my third car at age 18, my fourth car at age 19. I lived in a very expensive neighborhood where the average annual income was $100,000 dollars.
In other words, I had the American dream and much more. I had written four books by age 20. I could have potentially gotten into any upper class university I wanted, if I had chosen that route. Even though I had so much wealth materially, I did not feel satisfied and I began asking philosophical and spiritual questions about life.
Around age 20, I started reading Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada's translation of Bhagavad-Gita www.asitis.com, and it very quickly answered all of the questions I was asking, questions that I did not even have the ability to conceive, and dispelled a few philosophical misconceptions as well.
I quickly renounced all of the riches and material wealth I had, and became a celibate monk of the Gaudiya Vaisnava order at age 21. I donned the saffron robes that monks of both the Hindu and Buddhist traditions wear. I traveled around America for the next two years, distributing Bhagavad-Gitas at different colleges and universities. Internally I was experiencing tremendous spiritual happiness and felt all of my material attachments and conditioning gradually disappearing.
Around age 23, I finally did something that I had always wanted to do- I went to India to live. It was quite a big cultural shift, but I felt at home here in India. In America, I had felt like an outsider, someone who didn't fit in. As soon as I stepped off the plane in Bangalore, I felt like I was home finally.
Over the course of the next three years, I traveled all over India and saw many holy places. Vrindavan, Krishna's birthplace, south of Delhi, made a particularly strong impression on me. Now I have decided to settle down in south India, stop traveling, and leave behind the monk way of life.
All throughout this whole journey, as I studied different Vedic scriptures, especially Srimad-Bhagavatam, I began to experience an internal change of heart, something that many saints and spiritual leaders in many different religions have tried to express and explain.
Bhakti means devotion, devotion to God. The goal of religion is to develop love of God, a state of being that Hindus call prema. God is one, although different religions may call Him by different names such as Allah, Krishna, Christ, and so on. The goal of religion is one, which is to try to become a humble servant of the Supreme Lord.
Why am I leaving the monk way of life? That is a difficult question to answer, one that many monks of whatever tradition or order eventually have to ask themselves. At first reaction, most people assume it is because of a physical agitation, the desire to engage in sexual intercourse. In most cases, that is not it at all.
The desire to have a family, to have a loving wife, is a natural desire and emotion of any balanced and healthy human being. To artificially renounce women will not work. Women make up half of the world and thus to try to renounce or avoid them is not really possible, unless you live on an island where only male monks live. And even then, the desires still remain in the mind, so it is usually futile.
Do I have any regrets about becoming a monk for 5 years of my life? Not at all! It has been a tremendous period of growth, one that I feel was absolutely necessary.
I have no regrets at all about having lived as a monk, but as the character in Herman Hesse's Siddhartha book realized, he needed to move on and learn how to become a human again, how to become part of the world again. Temporary celibacy or monk life for 2 or 3 years can be tremendously beneficial to a person's spiritual development. But lifelong celibacy is practically impossible in this modern age.
What do I plan to do now? I plan to live a very simple and peaceful in a rural village in south India, living an agrarian based lifestyle. There are a couple of Americans living there already and are engaging the local villagers in different ways. So there is already a pre-existing framework there, but still, I will make a little bit of money from various things, and I will also live as simply as possible, so I do not foresee requiring a great deal of money. This is an issue I have thought of before, and one that I am presently working on.
The way of life in rural India is very different from the lifestyle of the fast paced Western countries. It is difficult to all of a sudden shift gears, so to speak, and change from a passionate and fast paced lifestyle to a more simple and peaceful one, but I have faith that I can make the change and learn how to live naturally and in harmony with nature and God.
In these turbulent and uncertain times, when the world is being ripped apart by war, social unrest, famine, crime, and chaos in general,------- people of all religions, whether they are a Christian, Hindu, Jew, Buddhist, Muslim, or whatever else, must come together in unity and realize that we are all children of the same Supreme Father, and thus we are all a part of the same family. We are all God's children, and when we realize this, then there can be peace.
(Editor's Note: I'd like to hear from other Americans/westerners who have "escaped" their countries of origin. [email protected])