InterCultural Experiences and Powerful Meditation Techniques
As a young man, I was fortunate to travel extensively along the sacred rivers of Northern India, live in monasteries in the fertile Kathmandu valley, and wake up to the breathtaking views of the Himalayan mountains on the border regions of Tibet. There I encountered long-haired sadhus performing yogic practices, clean-shaven monks reciting sacred texts in front of large crowds, and solitary hermits meditating in isolated caves in mountains. I was so fascinated by these individuals and their exotic psycho-physical practices that I kept returning to Asia, spending a good part of my adult life living in the Himalayan regions of India and Nepal, or traveling through various other parts of East and Southeast Asia. I received instructions on esoteric techniques of meditation whose secret has been kept within lineages of meditators, yogis, and tantrikas over the ages. Imitating the lifestyle of these figures, I developed a rigorous daily meditation routine, as well as a habit of engaging in regular solitary retreats, ranging from a few weeks to several months in duration.
I also underwent a serious and lengthy training as a historian of religion at various institutions in Asia (Kathmandu University, Mussorie Language School, Root Institute Bodhgaya), the Middle East (Hebrew University of Jerusalem), Europe (University of Zurich, University of Lausanne, University of Bern, HEC Paris, University of Heidelberg, University of Rome La Sapienza, University of Siena), and North America (University of Denver, University of Virginia). This educational itinerary allowed me to master more than a dozen ancient and modern languages. Fluent in German, Italian, and English, I have advanced knowledge of French, Spanish, and Hebrew; modern Tibetan, Nepali, Hindi, and Urdu; and classical Tibetan and Sanskrit. I have an intermediate or basic knowledge of several other languages, including classical Chinese, Mongolian, Pali, Persian, and Russian.
These studies also exposed me to a sheer endless array of contemplative practices. As anyone encountering the world of Indo-Tibetan Buddhism knows, the plethora of tantric techniques of meditation can be overwhelming at first. In fact, what we commonly understand under meditation—sitting in our room, closing our eyes, focusing on our breath, and so forth—is only a very small part of a much larger corpus of exercises. I explored the techniques of hermits gazing into the blue sky until they start to perceive highly complex manifestations of deities in strange universes, lengthy processes of self-visualization that familiarize the meditator with divine figures that are then to be embodied during one’s everyday activities, yogis performing strenuous physical techniques that can culminate in sexual intercourse with consorts, exercises during which meditators visualize themselves as figures that purify the entire universe, or radical practices during which the practitioners imitate various beings (such as animals or mentally ill people).