My friends Paul and Judi, a married couple, are moving to Hawaii in a couple of days. Paul is a Christian-turned-Buddhist who ran the Tallahassee Buddhist Center, and Judi, who is dispassionate about and skeptical of any type of organized religion, is a lawyer who defended death row inmates all over Florida.
In Hawaii, Paul will start and run the Hawaiian center for the Amida Trust, an order of Buddhists who live what they believe by reaching out in the world to people and places in need. I have had multiple invites to join the order and live in one of its centers in several countries and am seriously considering it. My family, no doubt, would treat it like I was running away with the circus.
The only reason I'd ever consider this move is because I'm drawn to this type of Buddhism. The members aren't cloistered away from the world and focused only on themselves. They focus on their teachings so they can focus on what's going on in the world - politics, social issues - and do whatever they can to raise the awareness of problems and assist where assistance is needed.
Dharmavidya Brazier is the monk who runs the whole show. I met he and his wife, a Buddhist nun, when they were in Tallahassee at Paul's invitation. I went for a dinner with Paul and the Braziers, and, without even knowing much about me, the Dharmavidya gave me his card and invited me to join.
I jokingly refer to the Braziers as cult leaders and laughingly hint that I think they're trying to brainwash me but that I think I'd look good in a red robe with a shaved head. Being a Buddhist monk, and one from England at that, I'm not sure he appreciates the humor, but you'd never know it because he seems to be, indeed, a real Buddhist. By that I mean that his face conveys nothing but calmness and peace, and his piercing blue eyes radiate only wisdom and concern. The fact that he has a Ph.D. and is knowledgeable about everything having to do with foreign and domestic affairs and exudes this calm kind of passion only makes him all the more interesting.
I just got back from dinner with Paul and Judi, and they keep bugging me to move to Hawaii. The only things I've committed to so far are thinking about their proposition and visiting them when I am able. Working for the order would provide me with food, shelter, clothing and medical care, but it would not provide me with money. I would get to see and do amazing things, though, and possibly make a huge difference in the lives of many people while becoming a more centered person through Buddhist teachings. I can think of worse things to do with my life.