Author tells PSM students well-timed failure can have miraculous results

By CELANIE POLANICK, Daily News Staff Writer December 03, 2004

Pennsylvania, USA -- Author Faith Adiele knows how miraculously life-changing a well-timed failure can be.

Adiele spoke to a women's studies class at Penn State McKeesport yesterday about her book, "Meeting Faith; The Forest Journals of a Black Buddhist Nun," which tells the story of almost flunking out of Harvard and instead spending her junior year of college in Thailand as a maechi, a Buddhist nun.
Adiele is also familiar with feeling foreign, even in her own land. Her Nigerian father separated from her half-Finnish, half-Swedish mother before she was born, and her father left when she was a baby to take part in the political struggle of his tribe, the Ibo, in his home country. Adiele grew up with her mother, a socially conscious Unitarian, in a small, Christian town in Washington state, and got used to feeling like a misfit, she said.

When she finally got to college, Harvard was a letdown; Adiele had expected an intellectual utopia, but found greed and prejudice instead.

"The education was to get a trade, for money, and I was really shocked by that," she said in an interview. "They came from these really fancy private schools, but they knew nothing about other cultures."

In 1986, Adiele, a 22-year-old college junior on probation, decided to spend a year in Thailand through a program at the University of Wisconsin. She had already learned Thai during her junior year in high school as an exchange student to Thailand, so the language wasn't a barrier, she said; in fact, Thailand was liberating because, as a foreigner, she could make her own rules.

Her research project, her excuse for traveling, revolved around conducting interviews with Buddhist nuns, but Adiele decided on the spur of the moment to become one herself on a whim, shaving her head and entering a secluded forest temple to practice the hermetic Forest Tradition of Theravada Buddhism. She ate once a day, and endured 19 hours of meditation daily, even meditating next to a corpse to understand the fleeting nature of life, she said.

"You're just focusing on the breath and the sensations as they occur," she said. "It's very simple. The belief is that wisdom will come to you."

At the beginning, meditating for 15 minutes was a challenge, but by the end, Adiele was able to complete 72 hours of uninterrupted meditation.

Rising at 3:30 a.m., nuns kept a strict schedule, attending instruction, sweeping the temple, meditating in caves, and chanting in Pali, an ancient language Adiele describes as the Asian equivalent of Latin. Reading and writing were forbidden to most nuns to discourage obsession with words, she said, but because of her beginner status, Adiele was given a Pali-to-English dictionary, tutored daily and given Buddhist writings in English to read.

The books were her companions, and helped ward off loneliness and hysteria.

"I would have an experience, and I would think, oh my God, I'm losing my mind, this is crazy, and then I would read in the texts, this happened to someone 500 years ago, that everybody goes through this stage," she said.

Permanent temple residents were not allowed to keep belongings from the outside world, but Adiele and other temporary visitors were permitted small belongings: small jars of spices, and, in Adiele's case, a journal, which she used to record her thoughts and her interviews with the other nuns. At the end of her time at the temple, she put on her own clothes, picked up her journal and walked out into the road, she said.

From there, her writing career has blossomed, drawing rave reviews and inspiring "My Journey Home," a PBS documentary based on her writings and travels. Adiele now holds a bachelor of arts in southeast Asian studies from Harvard University, a master of arts in creative writing from Lesley College, and M.F.A.s from the University of Iowa in both fiction and nonfiction, and teaches creative writing at the University of Pittsburgh. She is at work on her next book, tentatively titled "Twins," about the joys and pains of her eclectic heritage.

For more information, visit

We Need Your Help to Train the
Buddhist AI Chat Bot
(Neural Operator for Responsible Buddhist Understanding)

For Malaysians and Singaporeans, please make your donation to the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB

The SWIFT/BIC code for RHB Bank Berhad is: RHBBMYKLXXX
Address: 11-15, Jalan SS 24/11, Taman Megah, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Phone: 603-9206 8118

Note: Please indicate your name in the payment slip. Thank you.

Dear Friends in the Dharma,

We seek your generous support to help us train NORBU, the word's first Buddhist AI Chat Bot.

Here are some ways you can contribute to this noble cause:

One-time Donation or Loan: A single contribution, regardless of its size, will go a long way in helping us reach our goal and make the Buddhist LLM a beacon of wisdom for all.

How will your donation / loan be used? Download the NORBU White Paper for details.

For Malaysians and Singaporeans, please make your donation to the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB

The SWIFT/BIC code for RHB Bank Berhad is: RHBBMYKLXXX
Address: 11-15, Jalan SS 24/11, Taman Megah, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Phone: 603-9206 8118

Note: Please indicate your purpose of payment (loan or donation) in the payment slip. Thank you.

Once payment is banked in, please send the payment slip via email to: Your donation/loan will be published and publicly acknowledged on the Buddhist Channel.

Spread the Word: Share this initiative with your friends, family and fellow Dharma enthusiasts. Join "Friends of Norbu" at: Together, we can build a stronger community and create a positive impact on a global scale.

Volunteer: If you possess expertise in AI, natural language processing, Dharma knowledge in terms of Buddhist sutras in various languages or related fields, and wish to lend your skills, please contact us. Your knowledge and passion could be invaluable to our project's success.

Your support is part of a collective effort to preserve and disseminate the profound teachings of Buddhism. By contributing to the NORBU, you become a "virtual Bodhisattva" to make Buddhist wisdom more accessible to seekers worldwide.

Thank you for helping to make NORBU a wise and compassionate Buddhist Chatbot!

May you be blessed with inner peace and wisdom,

With deepest gratitude,

Kooi F. Lim
On behalf of The Buddhist Channel Team

Note: To date, we have received the following contributions for NORBU:
US$ 75 from Gary Gach (Loan)
US$ 50 from Chong Sim Keong
MYR 300 from Wilson Tee
MYR 500 from Lim Yan Pok
MYR 50 from Oon Yeoh
MYR 200 from Ooi Poh Tin
MYR 300 from Lai Swee Pin
MYR 100 from Ong Hooi Sian
MYR 1,000 from Fam Sin Nin
MYR 500 from Oh teik Bin
MYR 300 from Yeoh Ai Guat
MYR 300 from Yong Lily
MYR 50 from Bandar Utama Buddhist Society
MYR 1,000 from Chiam Swee Ann
MYR 1,000 from Lye Veei Chiew
MYR 1,000 from Por Yong Tong
MYR 80 from Lee Wai Yee
MYR 500 from Pek Chee Hen
MYR 300 from Hor Tuck Loon
MYR 1,000 from Wise Payments Malaysia Sdn Bhd
MYR 200 from Teo Yen Hua
MYR 500 from Ng Wee Keat
MYR 10,000 from Chang Quai Hung, Jackie (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from K. C. Lim & Agnes (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from Juin & Jooky Tan (Loan)
MYR 100 from Poh Boon Fong (on behalf of SXI Buddhist Students Society)
MYR 10,000 from Fam Shan-Shan (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from John Fam (Loan)
MYR 500 from Phang Cheng Kar
MYR 100 from Lee Suat Yee
MYR 500 from Teo Chwee Hoon (on behalf of Lai Siow Kee)
MYR 200 from Mak Yuen Chau

We express our deep gratitude for the support and generosity.

If you have any enquiries, please write to: