A Portrait of an American Buddhist Monk
Getting Off is Samanera Bodhesako’s masterful narrative of his early years as a Buddhist novice and monk.
To a youthful and restless American adult in the 1960s, “getting off” expressed the euphoric initial feeling experienced when an hallucinogenic drug such as LSD took effect. … More quotidian meanings of this expression not confined to the 1960s counterculture are found in the realm of public transportation. A passenger on a bus informs an inattentive driver that he or she will be “getting off” at the next stop, thus avoiding having to ride too far. Or, when riding in a crowded subway or tram, one might desperately cry out “getting off” to urge other passengers blocking the exit door to make way. This verbal message gives one a license to push and squeeze past the human obstructions preventing one from reaching freedom outside that confined, airless space. Finally, a situation where one, having become disenchanted with daily life typical of Western societies—life driven by an unending quest for sensual fulfillment and pleasure from material goods and entertainment—chooses to “get off”. Here, one may compare lay life to a merrygoround at an amusement park whose melody, at first pleasant, gets gradually more and more grating as one goes around and around.
In this book, Samanera Bodhesako’s masterful narrative of his early years as a Buddhist novice and monk, all of these seemingly unrelated connotations of “getting off” are present—but will not be discerned by one who merely skims through the adventures depicted. These connotations are to be pondered and reflected upon by a reader who travels along with the author not only on the physical terrain of India, Ceylon, and Nepal, but, more importantly, through the mental terrain so honestly and compellingly revealed.