of a Monk
Shri Acharya Abhidhyanananda Avadhuta
all started when, after 48 hours of labor, my mother found
her doctors preparing for a C-section... But the Universe
had other ideas and allowed me to begin incarnate existence
in a natural way -- before doctors got the chance to slice
open my mother's belly. It was a beautiful day in St.
Petersburg -- Russia's Window to the West -- and mother
said I took my first breath without a cry. The Sun was
in early Taurus, it was the Year of the Tiger, and I was
destined to be an only child.
mother, a mining technology engineer by trade, traveled
all over the Soviet Union inspecting the production quality
of factories that crushed large rocks into gravel. She
switched her career to biomedical research on arrival
to the USA.
father, a submarine designer, grew tired of working underwater
and turned to music composition. At the time I was born
he was, in fact, working his way through the St. Petersburg
conservatory -- the alma mater of just about every major
Russian classical composer. Spurred on by the first premium
at the graduation but impeded by his Semitic origins,
he inched his way to recognition in Eastern Europe, as
well as in the West, where he has achieved notoriety in
recent years. Although every marriage has its rough moments,
my parents have lived happily together for 40 years.
a child, I was very sick -- my survival was not at all
certain. I experienced my first pneumonia within two weeks
of my birth and had 25 more attacks by the time I was
eight. I remember doctors comparing the size of my medical
records to War and Peace -- my binder was one of
the thickest in the clinic. My father remembers how he
came to check on me at the hospital when I was four --
doctors were openly surprised that he came. They were
sure that mine was a hopeless case and expected my father
to be concerned about my living or dying as much as they,
which was not much. By the time I entered second grade,
my lung karma was up and I never developed pneumonia again,
although my mother still becomes upset if I sneeze. If
it were not for my parents' aggressive love, you -- my
esteemed reader -- would not be looking at this text.
much time alone and at the mercy of indifferent, annoyed
and underpaid doctors (admittedly with one or two saints
in white gowns), I did my best to enjoy my rather bleak
preadolescence. Being constantly pricked with needles
helped me develop a high tolerance for pain. Being constantly
alone helped me develop a liking for solitude. The experience
probably rid me of a lot of karma early on.
misery I experienced during my preadolescent pneumonias
had another positive aspect: I came to feel a deep sense
of assurance that my life did not belong to me but to
the One Who kept the flow of faith (and antibiotics) going.
retrospect, I must say that the foundations of my spiritual
path and of my teaching were laid, not in any formal training
but in these early childhood experiences. They taught
me discipline and patience, and gave me a unique perspective:
Few things are as effective as misery in forcing us to
realize the fleeting nature of this worldly existence.
And understanding the nature of impermanence is sufficient
in itself to bring us an intimate knowledge of permanence
-- or immortality...
secondary education (high school) was certainly the most
rewarding secular educational experience of my life. I
completed the program in an elite English school. I attended
the first grade to the last in the same school building!
I enjoyed going to school. The teachers were genuinely
caring, demanding and knowledgeable. The students were
mostly children of the city's intellectuals, rich party
officials, and political dissidents, of which there were
many. We were well aware of the Soviet "reality" around
us and incessantly joked about taboo subjects -- an activity
that could have easily landed our parents or us in trouble.
But generally I was a quiet and withdrawn boy.
the time of puberty, I became aware of some difficult-to-perceive,
ill-defined energy in me, which led to a keen interest
in anything religious or moral. Except for occasional
discussion with my parents or friends, I kept my new fascination
to myself -- for I was living in a communist country,
and such interests were neither safe nor popular. I started
doing meditation on my own: I would calm my mind with
music and sit contemplating my life, my mind, and the
meaning of it all. Being present in the moment with my
thoughts and other happenings in my life felt good and
was immensely engaging.
the time we left Russia, which we did shortly after my
high school graduation, my insightful nature was duly
noted by friends and significant others. It was a part
1991-1999 Abhidhyan Yoga Institute, Inc. All rights
page was published on Realization.org on May 25, 2000.