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Copyright 2001 Realization.org.



Autobiography of a Monk
By Shri Acharya Abhidhyanananda Avadhuta


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Childhood and Adolescence


It 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.

My 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.

My 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.

As 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.

Spending 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.

The 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.

In 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...

My 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.

At 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.

By 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 of me.


Copyright 1991-1999 Abhidhyan Yoga Institute, Inc. All rights reserved.



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This page was published on Realization.org on May 25, 2000.

Copyright 2001 Realization.org. All rights reserved.