To enter into the Self-Realization Monastic Order, I needed a dowry. A dowry was, traditionally in the olden days, property or money brought by a bride to her husband on for marriage.
Monastic tradition, nay mandate, was that young monks were to produce a dowry at the time of entering the Order.
Here I was young, dreamy-eyed idealist, ready to dip deeply into my bank account and plunge headlong into a Hindu-inspired monastery in Southern California. The dowry was my monetary price of entry into postulant training–the 12-18 months bootcamp for young monks entering the Order.
I handed over $825 cash to Brahmacharini Bertha and was handed back a hand-written receipt showing:
$25 Return Fare
What was my dowry money to be used for? My receipt shows $300 for “Dowry”. I don’t recall what that was actually for. Nor, did I care at the time. All I wanted was to be a monk. The $500 “Medical” was to pay for my four wisdom teeth to be removed. Prior to entering the Order, as a postulant monk, I was required to undergo physical exams by medical doctors and a dentist. I had a clean bill of health. Except, the dentist recommended that I extract the four impacted molars, all my wisdom teeth. After three to four months in the Order I did get my four wisdom teeth removed at the Dentist. (Those wisdom teeth extractions were the worst medical experience of my adult life. So far, I suppose if that’s was my worst I should count myself lucky!).
The $25 “Return Fare” was the estimated cost of a return train ticket–should the Order or I determine I was no longer “fit” for monastic life. (Eventually, 14 years later, that was the case. I write about my experience of driving away from the monastery in the last paragraph of my post: Darshan: Mind-reading Saints).
Also, prior to entering the Order as a Postulant Monk I donated my pickup truck to the Hidden Valley Ashram. They could use my truck more than me. The monastery had vehicles that could be borrowed, with a completed Car Request form signed with one’s spiritual counselors’ approval.
My acceptance letter, dowry receipt, and these recollections seem strange to me now. I wonder what possessed me to join an ashram–a monastic order–, to follow a guru, and to believe that my meditations was sure to lead me to enlightenment.