”Lord, I’ve been thinking- spiritual friendship is at least half of the spiritual life!”
The Buddha replied: “Say not so, Ananda, say not so. Spiritual friendship is the whole of the spiritual life!”
(Samyutta Nikaya, Verse 2)
I’m still riding high from the Buddhist Geeks Conference over the weekend. I’ve already posted a daily summary (see Day 1, Day 2, Day 3) but even that is not enough to cover the wealth of information, not to mention the intangibles, that was shared during the conference. Luckily for those who were not able to attend, Buddhist Geeks will soon publish the videos online once all the necessary editing are done. So stay tuned.
Ken McLeod summarized the conference very succinctly: “Great vision. Great staff. Great execution.” I couldn’t agree more. Props to all the organizers, designers, volunteers, teachers, sponsors, and attendees that made this magical gathering possible. Special props to the geeky Alpha Dawg, Vincent Horn for taking Buddhist Geeks where it is today. He deserved the standing ovation at the end of the conference.
Another person I want to thank is my wife. I almost didn’t make it to the conference. Why? Well, my wife and I take turns in taking care of our baby. She works on weekends, which means weekends are daddy daycare for me. At first I’ve decided that I’ll skip the conference. But as the conference drew near I felt a tug in my belly that I should really be there. So I asked my wife if it’s okay with her that I go to the conference. She said that she understands how important it is for me to go. So she asked some favors at her work to swap her weekend schedule. Fortunately, there was someone who was willing to swap schedule with her. So my wife had to work consecutive 12-hour days to cover the swap. And then she had to take care of our baby during the weekend that I was away. In short, I owe her a big one. (Translation: I’m her b*tch in the foreseeable future )
The fun factor doubled when two of my Seattle friends (@dtolmie and @yogageekgirl) decided to go to the conference and synchronized their travel schedule with me. They took the boredom out of traveling alone, not to mention that we had some fun conversations along the way. And in case someone doubts our geek credentials, consider this: between the three of us we had 3 iPads, 2 laptops, 3 iPhones, and 5 GPS-capable devices. And serendipitously, our rental car was a Ford Focus. If you didn’t get the pun, then I’m afraid that you’re just not geeky enough.
One of the main reasons I wanted to attend the conference was to meet my old Boulder buddies (Vince, Emily, Ryan — the Buddhist Geeks) and witness first-hand their great job at keeping the Buddhist Geeks brand and community alive and kicking all these years. I’ve been a supporter from the very beginning. So I’m very happy and proud of their accomplishments. They’ve made something very special here. And the results speak for itself.
My other agenda was to meet my primary dharma teacher–Shinzen Young–in person and thank him personally for his tireless work and his unique approach to the dharma. Before Shinzen I was very cautious and even cynical when it comes to dharma teachers. But all of that changed when I encountered his teachings. I felt a deep sense of connection to his no-fluff methodology, specificity, humor, openness, generosity, and all around geekiness. And he’s a wonderful human being too. What more can I ask for a dharma teacher/mentor/peer?
The conference was packed with awesome presentations. I enjoyed them all. The speakers were superb and presented their subject-matter very well. But the other highlight of the conference for me was meeting people whom I only interacted with online. It was a pleasure meeting Hokai Sobol, Al Jigen Billings, Rev. Danny Fisher, Rohan Gunatillake, Jason Lange, Ron Crouch, Kenneth Folk, David Chapman, Antonio Ramirez, Tom Buckley-Houston, Kristen Stancik, Chee X, and many more wonderful people whom I met for the first time offline.
Btw, there was also a wild serendipity which I just have to share here. While I was packing for the conference I picked a cool shirt and thought to myself, “Now this shirt should be unique!” But lo and behold there was someone in the conference wearing a similar shirt with a bigger logo! What are the friggin’ odds?! I was so not worthy! So I had to capture the moment of geeky serendipity (see photo). Incidentally, the mystery guy in the Thundercats shirt will remain a mystery. He is a dark sangha practitioner. He’s been practicing for a long time alone (more than 15 years if I remember correctly). He has no sangha but he felt compelled to attend the conference. Heck, he doesn’t even have a Twitter account and doesn’t do Facebook. But the guy is cool and fun to talk with. I think I’ll be seeing him around the corner sometime soon.
As the high emotions from #BGeeks11 starts to wane I remain enthusiastic that a multitude of seeds have been planted. I haven’t talked to anyone who didn’t enjoy or wasn’t blown away by the conference. As Shinzen had quoted Tony Soprano during his keynote presentation, “It’s good to be in something from the ground floor.” That’s exactly how I felt. I sense that Buddhist Geeks is just getting started. And I’m glad I was there when it happened.
P.S. See also the following brilliant #BGeeks11 accounts.