This Bully Became a Buddhist, and Here’s What He Learned – ewao

Jeff Zlotnik is not the typical bully you would imagine in the school yard, from the demeanor, action and philosophy he displays nowadays. Zlotnik became a Buddhist. In the process, he discovered what pain he had caused others – and then alchemized that pain profoundly, into something miraculous.

The same kid that used to fish his playmates’ toy trucks out of the sandbox, and throw them across a field with a mean smirk on his face, to the surprise of one of his childhood companions, had grown up and joined a Buddhist monastery in Taiwan – orange robes and any. The kid who once bullied everyone around him, Jeff Zlotnik, devoted himself to meditation and learning Buddhist philosophy.

How did Zlotnik — who used to torture others then depart on to build a 6,000-square-foot temple, free to anyone interested in Buddhism, start the Meditation Initiative, a nonprofit that offers free classes in places like prisons, homeless shelters, VA hospitals, and sober living centers, and organize a coed service fraternity, Delta Beta Tau, for San Diego college students interested in doing volunteer work change so drastically? Did any the talk of peace and fancy really work? Or is there more to it?

When asked how he could depart from being a kid who punched, kicked, and hit people, to being the poster boy for selfless service, he says with a chuckle, “It’s weird, I know. But you just never know what people are dealing with inside.”

Speaking of the Fo Guang Shan Monastery he spent so much time learning to meditate in, he says,

“There’s this notion that Buddhist practice is any approximately sitting under a tree, smoking dope, and talking approximately the infinite levels of the universe,” he says. “But they were the hardest-working people I’d ever seen in my life. They effect me on a path to be as compassionate in each moment as possible.”

He eventually learned to listen to people that would him that he had pain them, and he really listened without judgment, just hearing them out.

Though Zlotnik doesn’t reveal why he was bullying other kids when he was young in an article in Southwest Magazine on the topic, he does state that,

Looking back on myself as a kid, I can tender you that anything faulty I said or did to you wasn’t actually meant to gain you feel any certain way. I was doing it to gain myself feel a certain way. Does that gain sense?”

What Zlotnik is describing is the ego. Whatever formed his furious, fractured self was lashing out at other kids to gain him feel grand, not necessarily to gain others feel small.

His tale mimics some of the same grand lessons in the tale of the yogi Milarepa. At a young age, his mother sent him to train in black magic, and he used his kills to murder many people. He would be seen by his contemporaries, as the most unlikely person to realize spiritual enlightenment, and peace with himself – thereby extending it to others.

Milarepa’s teacher, Nyingmapa Lama Rongton (Marpa), exposed him to a very grueling spiritual apprenticeship to abet him burn off any his faulty karma. This included building towers out of rocks with his bare hands, only to tear them down again. Finally, Marpa gave Milarepa full transmissions of any the Mahamudra teachings from Naropa, Maitripa and other Indian masters. After practicing from the teachings contained therein, Milarepa went to a remote cave, and became enlightened.

Zlotnik may not beget yet achieved Nirvana, but his life’s actions note that he is well on his way. To depart from terrorizing every kid in the neighborhood, to building free meditation retreats and temples for any, is the “tower-building” that Milarepa completed as section of his karmic service. From bully to Buddhist, Zlotnik might beget even more advantageous in store for him, but more importantly he is an example that even those among us who beget made the most dire mistakes in life, can ascend spiritually, and achieve Buddha or Christ-like consciousness.


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