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The Road To Return

by Mr. Guy Lieberman


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The journey back home, you know, the one that begins with the first step, often begins by walking out the front door.

Loaded with a backpack that would stagger the burliest Navy SEAL, I stumbled outside toward the car. My father was waiting at the driver’s side with a wide grin. He was to take me to the Johannesburg train station, destination: Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. “You must be crazy,” he said. “What do you need all that stuff for?” Perhaps he was right. After all, I was embarking on a spiritual journey—why all the baggage?

That glorious day was the first official step on my wide arc back home. Not back home to Jo’burg, but back home to my roots. It was November 1992. I was heading forth to conquer, running solo. I was going to find myself. Over the following nine years, I explored 35 countries throughout Africa, Europe, North and South America, the Middle East, South and Central Asia, and the Pacific Rim, coming into contact with a plethora of cultures and wisdom traditions, constantly seeking the unified vision, the spiritual apex, the ultimate understanding of why we are alive on earth. It was a blessed journey, and I have a library of multi-colored memories, along with a veritable U.N. of friends.

The spiritual high became my top priority, challenged only when distracted by European chocolate. I met mystics and meditators, shamans and charlatans, activists and criminals. And I was not alone. My spirituality-seeking brethren and I saw ourselves as cosmic corpuscles flowing through the veins of the living Earth, transferring energy as we traveled, sharing essential—and existential—information with one another, and leaving beacons that point the way to the nearest slab of Cadbury’s double-thick and other essentials. We knew our goals, and we were young and committed. But we had to keep moving.

The spiritual high became my top priority, challenged only when distracted by European chocolate. I met mystics and meditators, shamans and charlatans, activists and criminals
In November of 1994, I arrived in Dharamsala, northern India, the home of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government-in-exile. And then everything changed. I felt I had discovered something very special, an ancient, carefully developed, and authentic wisdom tradition with many worthy teachers and, of course, the Dalai Lama himself at their head. Not only that, the Tibetans were themselves a worthy cause, needing support in their struggle for freedom from the oppressive, brutal Chinese regime. I dove right in.

Dharamsala starts in the plains and ascends up the foothills to the snowline of the Dhauladhar range of the Himalayas. It is a magical place: majestic snow-capped peaks, forests, meadows, and tiered barley fields set among picturesque villages of adobe and slate. Besides the familiar slew of spiritual seekers I recognized from the global vascular system, I noticed a marked increase in the Israeli population and a disproportionate number of Jews. In fact, I discovered this in most of the spiritual centers I visited across India, but nowhere was it so pronounced as in Dharamsala. According to the Department of Information at the Indian Embassy in Tel Aviv, 28,000 Israelis visit India every year, and nearly 20,000 of them head for Dharamsala. Jews, it seems, are great seekers.

My integration with the Tibetans was swift: I went into retreat, I studied, meditated, asked questions, I tried to be a good Buddhist boy. Along with others like myself, I would go into silence for days, sometimes weeks at a time. I soon discovered that there were many serious Jewish Buddhist practitioners who had ascended the ranks of the Tibetan Buddhist world. These and other Jews from an array of Buddhist sects across Asia are collectively known as JuBus. After all this time of denying any form of self-labeling, was I now going to be pigeon-holed, no matter how accurately or—quite frankly—how cool?

There are stories, many of them, that tell of Jews who were intending to take on Buddhist practices, but when the Dalai Lama discovered their intentions, he explicitly discouraged them from so doing. His general attitude is this: If one were to seek spirituality at home with the same sincerity, breadth, acceptance, and commitment, one would certainly find what one was looking for. We are born as Jews for a reason: to be as Jewish as we can.

Azriel Cohen, who runs an organization that hosts large Passover seders and programs around the Jewish holidays in Dharamsala, initially led a small delegation to meet with the Dalai Lama. He respectfully requested the Dalai Lama’s permission to run Jewish-focused religious festivals in what is ostensibly the Tibetan leader’s seat-in-exile. The Dalai Lama’s response was full of laughter, but telling: “Permission? It is my pleasure! You are the Chosen People, not so?”


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(pl: Shabbatot). Hebrew word meaning "rest." It is a Biblical commandment to sanctify and rest on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. This commemorates the fact that after creating the world in six days, G-d rested on the seventh.
A Biblically mandated early-spring festival celebrating the Jewish exodus from Egypt in the year 1312 BCE.
Jewish mysticism. The word Kaballah means "reception," for we cannot physically perceive the Divine, we merely study the mystical truths which were transmitted to us by G-d Himself through His righteous servants.
One who follows the teachings of the Chassidic group which was formerly based in the Belarus village of Lubavitch. Today, the movement is based in Brooklyn, New York with branches worldwide. The Lubavitch movement is also widely known as "Chabad."
Established by King David to be the eternal capital of Israel. Both Temples were built there, and the third Temple will be situated there when the Messiah comes.