Have you ever met an Urban Monk? Wellness Coach’s own Pandit Dasa was a practicing monk in one of the busiest cities—New York City—for 15 years. Pandit’s amazing story unfolds in his answers to our 5 questions below, including the age-old question: Pancakes or Waffles?!
Be sure to join us for a live meditation led by Pandit on Wednesday, November 18th at 12:30pm EST.
1. What is the reason you decided to become a monk?
My parents came to the U.S. with little to no money. With a bit of luck and a lot of hard work, they became multi-millionaires. Then, in the early 1990s, they lost their business due to a fire and ended up losing almost everything. In 1993, seeking new business opportunities, we all relocated to post-communist Bulgaria, where no one spoke the English language. My life having been turned upside down, I began an inward journey asking myself, "what did I do to deserve this upheaval?" After two years in Bulgaria, we moved back to the U.S., to the East Coast. In 1999, I decided to travel to Mumbai to live in a monastery for the purpose of discovering myself. After falling in love with that lifestyle, I moved into a monastery in New York City where I spent the next 15 years living as a monk.
2. What is the biggest misconception about being a monk?
That one has to remain a monk forever. It's not a one-way highway. Exits are allowed, but then you can't get back on the monk highway (it’s very uncommon for monks who leave to come back to the monk life). Living in a monastery is like going to college. You study, learn, introspect, grow, and eventually graduate. Then you take all of that into the real world.
3. Do practicing monks generally lead a quiet lifestyle?
It can be a quiet life—if you're NOT living on the Lower East Side of New York City, which is where I lived as a monk. The noises I had to contend with were car horns, chatter from the local bars, ambulances, police sirens, and the occasional sound of illegal construction work in the form of a jackhammer in the middle of the night. The idea is that the world around you is going to be noisy, but we can still learn to quiet our mind and emotions in the middle of chaos.
4. How do you compare being an urban monk to a monk living in a remote place?
The term Urban Monk is somewhat of an oxymoron. Most monks won't live in an urban environment because it's filled with distractions and temptations. An urban monk actively engages with society and eagerly shares their wisdom and learnings with the world. A monk in a remote environment might more be focused on one's own spiritual growth and development.
5. Pancakes or waffles on a Sunday and why?
Pancakes. We didn't have a waffle maker. Mostly, it was oatmeal, a variety of fruits and a huge tub of peanut butter.
More About Pandit
In his new book, Closing The Apps — How To Be Mindful At Work And At Home, Pandit coaches readers on how to harness contemporary meditation and mindfulness to live a more fulfilling life.
Pandit states, “Closing the apps on our smart devices is pretty easy, but closing the millions of ‘apps’ that are open in our mind isn't that easy. My book, Closing the Apps, will help us manage our thoughts, especially the negative ones, and teach us how to not let our mind drain our emotional and mental battery.”