Now I'm reading Against the Stream. I laughed at the idea that the ascetics abused him by calling him a "food-eater" Anandi says, "tough crowd." Even though it's absurd to think eating food is wrong, I've always thought that perhaps a period of asceticism would be good, even if it is adolescent. Adolescents tend to swear off things. I recently heard the concept Straight Edge Vegan, which would also eradicate any animal products you own, no medication, no intoxicants, and sex. I can't help but hear the AA, "refrain progress not perfection."
Reading about the 4 sights, which Mr. Lavine the 4 messengers, I thought about how we shunt people way into hospitals and nursing homes and funeral homes, you don't really see sick, elderly or dead people that much. They are swept up pretty neatly.
You also don't see that many religious people around. Every once in a while you see a nun or some orthodox Jew, but even the Hindus you see, it feels more cultural their garb than religious. I have seen a few Tibetan monks on the subway and in Central Park. My recent sighting of monks on the street might have been a sham. I guess you don't have to wear you spirituality on your sleeve, but I wouldn't mind moving towards the Tibetan model where one out of five men were monks. Now that system has it's troubles and whatnot, but I say just moving towards it more. Not in current America. I think there are some monks in New York City, but I can't imagine there are many. Of course I don't mean to perpetuate the dualism of monastic and lay. You hear all kinds of things about the Catholic monks. Thomas Merton was an interesting person. How many famous monks can I call to mind, in all traditions. I could probably list about 50 great spiritual leaders, but I could also list 50 MLB or 50 NFL players. Most of the ministers I met were pretty worldly and didn't seem very enlightened.
I'm not sure what I think about Levine calling the ascetics "Sid's homies". His language is a certain kind of casual, and you can either take that as updated language, or kids language. Or both or neither, but it's not too distracting for me. I was sorry to see his father died the other day, even though I haven't read any of his books. He does have a forward in this book, and has the lovely phrase "teen-monster".
Other reading: I have been thinking a lot about Milarepa lately. I started reading again The Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa: The Life-Story and Teaching of the Greatest Poet-Saint Ever to Appear in the History of Buddhism, which I read from 2005-2011. Might take 6 years to read it again. I've also been slowly working my way through The Purpose and Practice of Buddhist Meditation: A Source Book of Teachings, which seems out of print, and I couldn't somehow find the kindle version to link to either. You can still get used copies.