Goal in Progress

The Detours and Diversions of a Spiritual Journey

Non-Fiction - Memoir
354 Pages
Reviewed on 05/21/2024
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Author Biography

Bhikkhu Nyanadhammika (Richard Zeikowitz) was born into a secular Jewish family in New York. As an adult, he distanced myself from Judaism and after college began what would be a multi-decade spiritual journey, initially in Buddhism. In his late 20s he relocated to Europe, where he lived for eleven years, the majority of the time in Berlin. He then returned to the U.S. and enrolled in graduate school, eventually earning a Ph.D. in English Literature. He subsequently held university teaching positions at the University of South Alabama and John Jay College, CUNY. In 2008, he gave up his academic career to go forth as a monastic in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, receiving novice ordination from His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, India. After spending a year at an international Tibetan monastery in France, he transferred to a monastery of the Thai Forest tradition in England, ordaining as a bhikkhu. In 2011, he decided to continue his monastic life first in an Anglican Benedictine monastery in Michigan followed by eight years in a Greek Orthodox monastery in Ohio, culminating in taking life vows. As a result of researching the Jewish roots of Christianity, his Jewish roots resurfaced and he left the Orthodox Christian monastery and spent a number of months embracing Orthodox Judaism. However, he came to realize that he could not relate to Judaism on a spiritual level and returned to Buddhism. He re-ordained as a bhikkhu in 2023 and currently resides at a Burmese monastery near Austin, Texas.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Romuald Dzemo for Readers' Favorite

Goal in Progress: The Detours and Diversions of a Spiritual Journey by Bhikkhu Nyanadhammika takes readers on an insightful and deeply personal odyssey following the author's eclectic and non-linear spiritual quest. Through his narrative, the American Buddhist monk shares the fifty-year evolution of his journey toward awakened awareness, emphasizing the importance of detours and diversions in shaping his understanding of his spiritual goals. The author's journey unfolds across continents, from Bodhgaya, India, to monasteries in France, England, and the United States, encompassing diverse traditions such as Tibetan Buddhism, Thai Forest tradition, Christianity, and Judaism. This book is a memoir rich in introspection and self-awareness, following the author through struggles with shifting beliefs, encounters with various spiritual communities, and moments of profound revelation.

The narrative is delivered with honesty and humility. Bhikkhu Nyanadhammika does not shy away from acknowledging the uncertainties and challenges he faced along the way, nor does he claim to have all the answers. Instead, he invites readers to join him on a journey of exploration and discovery, where each detour and diversion becomes a valuable lesson in self-understanding and clarity. Goal in Progress is beautifully crafted, weaving together personal anecdotes, reflections, and insights with skillful storytelling. Whether recounting his time in bustling European cities or solitary retreats in monastic settings, the prose remains consistently descriptive and transports readers into the heart of the author’s spiritual journey. The quest for meaning and purpose become central themes in this spellbinding memoir, and the author is an expert at exploring the different seasons of the soul while sharing invaluable lessons and insights from his unique journey.

Foluso Falaye

In Goal in Progress, Bhikkhu Nyanadhammika recounts his quest to align with a suitable spiritual path. Bhikkhu's journey comprises surprising diversions, travels to different countries, and sharing peaceful moments with new friends. It all began with his first mescaline trip in early October 1974, which led to a series of events that discouraged him from pursuing his previous goal of becoming a dentist. After considering different career paths, Bhikkhu embarked on a spiritual journey that brought him to an exploration of Buddhism, Christianity, and Judaism. The book depicts the author's memorable travel moments, including merging into the environment in a park below Ghirardelli Square, getting an idea of what prewar Berlin was like in the Charlottenburg neighborhood, and walking along the top of the South Downs of England as a Buddhist monastic.

I loved Bhikkhu Nyanadhammika's honesty regarding his spiritual journey. He doesn't claim to have all the answers but clearly shares his doubts, questions, and resolutions. Since the story covers multiple decades, it depicts different stages in the author's life and sometimes skips some years. We watch him transition from a young man just discovering spirituality to an elderly man who is forced to be mindful of his health after some health issues. One aspect of the book that stands out is the vivid descriptions of religious practices and the various interesting places the author visited in different countries: Malaysia, England, Berlin, India, and more. From the lyrical words to the vivid descriptions of temples and religious practices, Goal in Progress offers a stunning spiritual and therapeutic experience. It's a must-read for spiritual seekers, travel enthusiasts, and fans of historical memoirs. I wished it would never end!

K.C. Finn

Goal in Progress is a work of non-fiction in the autobiographical writing, spiritual exploration, and slice-of-life genres. Penned by author Bhikkhu Nyanadhammika, this interesting work details the eclectic and non-linear spiritual journey of an American Buddhist monk. Beginning his quest in the late 1970s, his path includes a diverse range of experiences from residing in West Berlin to entering monastic life at fifty-four. His journey spans various monastic traditions across the globe, including Tibetan, Thai Forest, Benedictine, and Greek Orthodox monasteries, before re-ordaining as a Theravada Buddhist monk in Malaysia. The author concludes that his goal, while rooted in Buddhism, has been enriched by detours into Christianity and Judaism.

Author Bhikkhu Nyanadhammika utilizes a natural flair for storytelling to craft a fascinating exploration of a truly eclectic spiritual journey. The warm narrative flow offers a lot of different settings, experiences, and explorations which are brought together in interesting, converging timelines to offer a rich, multi-faceted perspective on spirituality. His journey, starting in the late 1970s and culminating in his re-ordination in Malaysia, illustrates a profound dedication to spiritual growth and discovery, but the narrative shows us how the pieces fit together from past and present to inform the revelations of his future. I was particularly struck by his openness to diverse religious traditions and the many vivid descriptions of life in various monasteries around the world. Nyanadhammika’s narrative emphasizes that detours and diversions are not obstacles to overcome, but integral to deepening one’s understanding of the world around them, which is a beautiful way to look at things. Overall, Goal in Progress is a highly recommended read for the spiritually-minded and those seeking diverse perspectives on harmony and faith.