I went down to the Gnostic Sanctuary on Sunday and we had a lovely celebration of the Feast of All Souls and Day of the Dead. We lit candles for all our loved ones and all those unknown to us who have passed on.
It made me think about my good friend who has gone back to Japan. She is blind and has been a Buddhist nun for something like twenty-one years now. She spent thirteen years in a monastery in Japan, three in a monastery here in California, and then five in a Sangha House in Berkeley. She has now returned to her monastery in Japan.
I met her in India at the ashram of Mata Amritanandamayi, where we were both visiting for the winter ten years ago. Five years later, my friend felt she needed to take a break from the monastery, needed to try her wings, to explore other possibilities, and she sent out feelers to her various friends, looking for a place to use as a base until she could get set up somewhere. She told me we were the only people who said, 'come ahead.' When she arrived in Berkeley, she lived with my husband and me for close to three months while looking for a place to rent and beginning her new life here. The whole time I felt sure that she would return to the monastery in Japan, where life was good for her in many ways: she had meaningful work, a relatively supportive community (I think 'support' is pretty tough to find in today's world), a very rare spiritual teacher, and a constant spiritual practice.