Trappist monk helps veteran ‘awaken’ me

Con’td from Schuylkill Expressway miracle paves road to VA

The first Buddha emerged in my dream as a muscular military-type, with short-cropped hair and engaging smile. Asian? No, Hispanic, but with a possible trace of someone from an exotic Asian island.  

Meeting this Tuesday morning, Feb. 16, 2010,  was an accident. My trip from Conshohocken to Philadelphia took less time than I had scheduled, and I had an extra 20 minutes until a 10 o’clock appointment. It gave me a chance to talk with my official advocate, the DAV (Disabled American Veterans).

I don’t belong to any veteran organization, save the DAV. Many Vietnam veterans stayed away from the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) — at least initially — because of an attitude we had right after the war. We felt we did not fit in. Many have joined since and I understand younger veterans are also seeking camaraderie at these organizations.

The DAV helped me. It’s my kind of organization, service for others.

What I didn’t expect walking into the VA building was to come across an “enlightened one.” A “Bodhisattva.” Someone who followed the same path I’d been walking the past few months, trying to compassionately serve others. A Buddhist adviser right smack dab in the middle of an military-industrial complex!

He appeared behind a dark mahogany desk, arising as if he were a “lotus flower” opening from a misty lake as the sun greets all sentient beings. He had seen combat in “Desert Storm,” possibly the last conflict most of the World Community joined the USA to engage in — liberating Kuwait from Iraq.

Small talk of mutual interests, PTSD, and other concerns somehow turned to Buddhism. I had recently attended a retreat with lots of chanting and meditation, and there might have been some “residual” energy still emanating from it. It allowed me to open my eyes, and see clearer in my dream-like state.

You see, the DAV rep had come to Buddhism by way of a monk. Nothing unusual there. The spiritual leader of the Chenrezig Tibetan Buddhist Center of Philadelphia  is a monk.

But, this was a “Trappist Monk, one of the Roman Catholic monks, who followed the Order of St. Benedict of the Sixth Century AD.

My Dream Buddha, let’s call this Bodhisattva, “Tim,” told me how his “awakening” started. He said he was at a shop that sold spiritual keepsakes. Tim was looking at some Buddhist items, lifting one from the shelf for a better view.

He noticed the Trappist monk nearby.

“You wouldn’t approve of something like this,” Tim recalled saying something to that effect, while showing the monk the non-Christian piece.

“Spirituality is spirituality, no matter what the source,” the monk offered. Trappist monks will generally only speak when necessary, and idle talk is strongly discouraged, according to religious sources.

And, from that day forward, Tim studied Buddhism, learned of Dharma, and eventually spoke to me of sangha. 

The dream shifted shortly after Tim wrote a cover letter for my memo to the VA. Later, he would include some 30 articles I had written about PTSD and “miraculously” got reproduced with the approval of another VA representative dedicated to serving with compassion.

See: Miracle copies manifest at Philly VA Center

5 comments on “Trappist monk helps veteran ‘awaken’ me

  1. I like this post!


  2. […] For first VA Bodhisattva, see Trappist monk helps veteran ‘awaken’ me […]


  3. Lea Strongheart says:

    I love the old saying “Speak only if you can improve the silence.” The monk was a blessing..and we draw to us what we are…although still being refined.

    Ps.I would not be uncomftable if I never spoke again…as long as I could laugh!!


  4. Nancy says:

    Thank you for your writings- they are grounding just when I needed them. Gratefully I am meditating again. The Heart Sutra.


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