Today my oldest friend Josh, who posts here occasionally as “rinchen,” left the Bay Area for a semi-secret place in the mountains where he will sit and study Dharma with a small group of other Buddhists for the next three and a half years, mostly in total silence. Josh has been a practicing Buddhist for the past 20 years, but this retreat is total immersion.
By tradition, students don’t say much about this retreat. What I do know is that his access to modern amenities will be almost nonexistent, our ability to contact him, or him us, limited to a glimmer here and there (not by hard-core rules, but by general understanding that students are there for a reason, and that contact with the world can only distract).
This retreat is something he has wanted to do for a long time, and circumstances in his life recently provided an opening for him to follow through. I asked Josh the other day whether he felt any kind of trepidation. He responded that he was unconcerned by the prospect of being disconnected from music, news, work and the world, but that he expected to feel the bigness of being alone.
“But I have a job to do,” he said, “a task in front of me.”
“What kind of task?” I asked.
“To pray for all beings.”
Blessings, rinchen. I will miss you, and will be so happy to see you again in 1150 days.