A Train, A Dress and a Famous Tune
His Holiness Dalai Lama
His Holiness Dalai Lama

How to Practice : The Way to a Meaningful Life / Hardcover

"I've been on that train," I said.

"That train?," my mother said, as I looked at the television.


Before I made my baal teshuvah and started keeping kosher and shabbat, I lived my daily life as a Buddhist. Although I practiced Tibetan Buddhism for more than ten years, I always felt as though I was at the very start of my path in Buddhism. The simplest practices and habits I have learned while walking the Buddhist path have improved my life and sense of well-being.

Living simultaneously as a Jew and a Buddhist is very comfortable, actually. There's no sense of cognitive dissonance or other bothersome feelings. Other than the usual thoughts and feelings of, "Oh, I'd like to improve myself in this behaviour or that behaviour," it's pretty good.

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "But what about reincarnation? Isn't that a completely different sort of "thing" than you'd believe as a Jew?"

Well, it could appear that way, but actually, the Jewish ideas of life, death and the spark of life is very similar to the ideas that support the possibility of reincarnation. Within Jewish and Buddhist thought, every living person is a spark of life from the phenomena which creates and maintains life, the spark of life that animates a human existed before they were born in a human body, the spark of life and the body are two separate things that work synergistically to create and facilitate the human experience of existence. After Samuel's death, the king of Israel communicated with Samuel with the help of a necromancer, which communicates with certainty that once we are no longer human, we continue to exist somehow. These are ideas that are present in both Jewish ideology and Buddhism.

Actually, Buddhism is the obvious practice for Jews who would like a deeper understanding of themselves and the world beyond traditional Jewish thought. A great many American Buddhists are Jewish. After practicing Buddhism for more than ten years, I am comfortable saying that, from my experience, Buddhism is Judaism when the Jewish person does not long for Gd.

That's a great answer, right? It's true. It's accurate and it's great.

Would you like to hear something more interesting?

During my childhood, I lived in New York City and in that city they have a museum called the New York Transit Museum. This museum tells the story of the evolution of the New York Transit System, its tunnels, bridges, tracks and its trains.

When I was 5 years old, I was watching television and I saw a commercial for the New York Transit Museum. The commercial showed the interiour of an old train, it's ornate decor, the sconces, a rich and beautiful example of an old subway train. As I watched the commercial, I just stared at the images of the old train. I knew I'd seen that train before. I'd been on that train. The music in the commercial was familiar to me, a song that I'd heard many times. Every image of the scene was familiar and comfortable to me. I had images in my mind of the clothing I wore while riding that train.

I said to my mother, "I've been on that train."

"That train?," my mother said, as I looked at the television. My mother and I would take the subway trains in New York City all of the time. That's the fastest way to travel in New York. So, when she asked me that question, I understood her to say, "We take the subway all of the time, so I know you know what a subway train is, but are you saying you've been on that specific train? Because that's an old train."

"Yes. I've been on that train."

"Okay," my mother said.

During my childhood, I'd see objects, receive gifts, see images of things and people and places that reminded me of the commercial with the train and the music in the commercial, but I just saw it as an interesting thing. Until I was 17 years old, I'd ride the A train to practically every destination as that was the subway train in my neighbourhood. And, at some stage, during those years, I learned that the song in the commercial is called "The A Train".

I watched an interview with His Holiness and the interviewer asked him if he really believed that he was the actual reincarnation of the Buddha. Specifically, he asked him if he really and truly believed that the soul of one man who lived many years ago is also the soul of all of the men, including His Holiness, who have served as the Dalai Lama.

His Holiness looked at him as though to say, "Are you kidding? What do you think I'm gonna say? You're asking me if I believe the doctrine of the religion of which I am the religious leader. What do you think I'm gonna say?"

His Holiness said, "Reincarnation or no reincarnation, I am the right man for the job."

What does that mean? I don't know. But, I've been on that train.

His Holiness Dalai Lama

His Holiness Dalai Lama

His Holiness Dalai Lama

His Holiness Dalai Lama

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