My name is Daniel, and here is a sketch of my spiritual adventures so far…
In 1967, at age 12 while living in Spain with my family, I was immersed in Juan Mascaro’s translation of the Upanishads. While reading the introduction, I came upon the phrase “opening the eye of wisdom.” Immediately, on reading these words, I experienced a sudden spontaneous intensification and expansion of awareness. In one moment, my sense of self, purpose and understanding of the world were transformed. Then and there I consecrated my life to the Divine and to the opening of this “eye of wisdom.” Of course, I had only the vaguest idea what this meant at the time.
On returning to NYC at age 13, and through age 19, I studied in two schools of Kriya Yoga. This tradition teaches central channel breathing practices, devotional practices, and concentration with chakra and mantra meditations. Although not generally advertised as such, Kriya Yoga is in fact a tantric tradition. I have continued to develop these throughout my life. During the mid through late 1990s, I had the good fortune to receive further guidance in these practices from a Hindu swami in a separate tantric tradition. I do not publicly share these names as I am no longer associated with these teachers.
In 1974 at the age of 19, I acquired a ticket to India by a series of extraordinary circumstances, and after various adventures, ended up sitting what I believe to be the only vipassana retreat as taught by USN Goenka at the Tibetan Library in Dharamsala. This retreat was unique in that Goenkaji had been invited by the Dalai lama to teach his monks, and most of the enrollment consisted of Tibetan rimpochés. Here is where I first heard and experienced the teachings of the Buddha. On return to the USA I learned of the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts and began attending 10 day and two-week retreats, as well as taking advantage of the facilities to do self-courses. Those early years were a wonderful time to practice at Barre. The facility would be empty between organized retreats. The silence and solitude were a tremendous aid.
I first maintained my Goenka practice under the guidance of Ruth Denison, then after a couple of years began to meditate in the Mahasi tradition. This I developed this practice first with Joseph Goldstein. It was at IMS that I first met Dipa Ma and Taungpulu Sayadaw and conceived a desire to train with them. I also had the opportunity to do a two-month course with Sayadaw Upandita of Mahasi Thathana Yeiktha there in 1992, and have since done several two and three month retreats in solitude.
In 1980, I returned to India. I undertook a pilgrimage to Bodh-Gaya, and later spent a month at the Mahabodhi society in Calcutta, learning primarily from Munindraji as well as some time with Dipa Ma. From there, I went to Burma and trained at Mahasi Thathana Yeiktha under the tutelage of U Javana. I had hoped after this to travel upland to visit with Taungpulu Sayadaw, but the government at that time would not allow me it, so I returned to the USA. Shortly after my arrival I learned that Taungpulu would be coming to Boulder Creek, California, where some of his disciples and the local Burmese community were creating a monastery. I therefore relocated to Santa Cruz to spend time with him and his bhikkhus. I ended up remaining in Santa Cruz, and have been here since. I spent my first six months continuously at Taungpulu Monastery. Later, I completed my undergraduate education at the University of California in Santa Cruz, and continued to spend time with Taungpulu when he came to visit Santa Cruz over summer, every other year or so until his death.
My time at Taungpulu monastery was rich. Under Taungpulu’s direction, I learned to trust the states of consciousness and insights that arose in my practice. Here under the tutelage of Pakoku Sayadaw I developed patikula bhavana meditation, which became dear to me and a great source of support in my meditation development. There I made a new friend by the name of David Leonard, who had spent several years as a bhikkhu in Sri Lanka, and who had been trained in the Mahasi teacher training system. His teacher was the Venerable Somatiphala Mahathera, a direct student of Mahasi Sayadaw. When Taunpulu and his monks stopped coming to the USA, David agreed to supervise my continuing development, and under his tutelage I acquired an in depth understanding of the vipassana ñanas and how the five controlling faculties govern meditation development. This too was an especially wonderful time in my life. I would go up to Taungpulu monastery to practice during quiet times when there were no programs, and again had deep silence and blessed solitude.
In my early twenties, while participating in a vipassana retreat at the Insight Meditation Society, I was fascinated to see two Trappist fathers enduring the rigors of the three-month course. This aroused in me a curiosity for a deeper study of Christian thought and practice. As a result, my core sense of mission as a contemplative came to include making my own life a place of living dialogue between eastern and Christian spiritualities. This inner dialogue, based in both study and experience has not always been easy, but has always been rewarding.
From the old churches of Rome and Eastern Orthodoxy, I discovered the treasures to be found in the Holy Name, and the sacramental life of the church. From Hindu yogic systems I learned the art of working with the mind via the breath, as well as the development and sensitizing of the subtle body. From the Theravada I learned the extraordinary powers that mindfulness and concentration have to foster wholesome states of consciousness through the development of samatha and vipassana. I experienced their subtle and profound skill in revealing the dynamics of our subjectivity, right up to the limit of its transcendence in the cessation of mental formations. From Christian contemplative disciplines, I learned the power of bowing down, not just with the body, but within the depths of the heart. I learned of grace and of the reality and power of the Holy Spirit, the end purpose of all prayer and contemplation.
These journeys have never been a mere collecting of information or beliefs cobbled together into some “personal grand scheme of things” but rather actual lessons learned following the prayer-sought guidance I have been given over the decades of my life. For me, all systems of contemplative practice lead back to the grace and mercy of the Divine. All are aids to deepening our transparency to the redeeming power of Holy Love. Each tradition of practice I explored taught me to offer a different dimension of my being to the Divine, and for each corresponding blessings was given. From these explorations was born a multi-dimensional understanding of spiritual development and awakening.
I have immeasurable gratitude to my many patient and generous teachers, and from that gratitude springs my desire to share what I’ve learned. I’m happy to do so with all who are sincere and willing to humble themselves inwardly before their highest conception of the Good, the True and the Beautiful, regardless of their faith. I do this because I trust that Power to guide them according to their genuine needs, far more perfectly than I ever could. The Spirit was present in their lives before I came along, and will be there after I’m gone. The key to success in all our practices is sincerity; the price is humility. The secret to garnering Divine blessing in our spiritual exercises is to place them, like flowers, at the Feet of the Only Good, the Absolute Truth and the Perfect Beauty.
For those interested in some personal details of my life, I was born to a French father and a Spanish mother. I speak both languages. I’m a language nerd who has studied Classical Greek, Latin, Sanskrit and Pali. These days, I’m working on Italian. I was raised in NYC for the most part, with summers on Long Island and various stretches in Europe. I received a bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Santa Cruz. My journey through Christianity began in my youth, in the Episcopal Church, through its religious orders. Later in life, after a study of church history and ecclesiology, I crossed the Tiber to Rome. During these last nine years of my life I have been working as an RN in hospice work, work that is very dear to my heart.