A Personal Note from Gregory Kramer
In early 2018, I finally returned to my desk after two years of grueling treatment for two cancers. My doctor had estimated that my multiple myeloma would recur sometime in the next two years and would most likely be terminal.
Before cancer had put all my work on hold, I’d been working on two books—one on a “whole life” Buddhist path and one on a relational understanding of the Dhamma. Now, as a writer, I was facing the ultimate deadline, and I needed to choose where to focus my precious time and energy first. Should I complete the whole-life path book, which I’d been developing for twenty years and I thought was almost done, or dive right into the relational Dhamma book that felt so crucially needed on the Buddhist landscape? It was a mortal calculation: would I live long enough and would my mind remain workable long enough to complete both books?
Gambling that I’d live to do both, I dove into the whole-life path book. I addressed some of the hardest questions I knew about a living Dhamma, questions that arose naturally when each path factor was held up to the whole-life vision. Climate change. Social justice. Psychotherapy. Art. Technology and new media. The role of the intellect. A coherent vision of deep meditation practice and family and work life. A path of human decency and liberation. How does it all fit together if I retain an uncompromising connection with the early Buddhist teachings?
I was focused solely on getting the book published while I still had the capacity to fully engage with the material and with my editing and publishing team. Two more years of work, fueled by death’s presence, drew forth something that transcended my original vision.
What I didn’t foresee—what no one could have foreseen—were the world events we’d all be navigating right at the time of the book’s publication. Suddenly, all the questions and topics A Whole-Life Path was exploring took on new meaning and relevance as I saw my fellow Buddhists around the world grappling with a global pandemic; political, economic, and cultural upheavals; racial injustice and challenges to civil liberties; and the explosion of the climate emergency that has been stalking us for decades. What does a path of freedom and goodness mean now, in this? What does it look like?
There is no way a book could capture and address the totality of what’s happening in the world at any time, but especially now. And A Whole-Life Path is merely a starting point, a recalibration of early Buddhist teachings that is meant to reach into our lives alongside the root texts and Buddhist traditions by providing a framework for applying those teachings, individually and with others, at all times. It complements the books and living teachings of my brother and sister teachers, monastic and lay, each of whom seeks, like me, to address and alleviate the roots of suffering. But I believe our ragged world needs this book now.
I also think this book will likely be needed next year, next decade, and beyond. The Dhamma is of timeless value and applying it “here and now” will always be a moving target. Hopefully, the frameworks offered in A Whole-Life Path will endure after the 2020s have passed and long after I have passed.
We have made it this far. May we go forward with compassion and skill. May there be justice and peace. May we all find safety and ease.
Learn more about A Whole-Life Path.