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There are a lot of human conflicts and personal suffering in the world today. We all need healthy ways to prevent falling victims to this. For me, it’s a love of reading, writing, a fulfilling spiritual life, martial arts and plant-based eating. My mother instilled a deep thirst for reading in me at an early age. My favorite areas of reading include eastern philosophies & religions, spiritual biographies, classical rhetoric & oratory, martial arts, Buddhism and Consciousness. My conscious spiritual odyssey began at age 13. It was driven by a deep curiosity about whether one could live without emotional or psychological pain. Ultimately, I found my “spiritual home” in Chan/Pure Land Buddhism. (Mahayana tradition) I am a lay disciple of the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist order. I completed the Triple Gem ceremony at Hsi Lai Temple. Fo Guang Shan was founded by Venerable Master Hsing Yun with an emphasis on what he calls “Humanistic Buddhism.”

Educationally, my background is in speech communication, rhetoric and philosophy. (B.A. Speech Communication: Rhetorical Studies concentration) My early thoughts were influenced by several western philosophical traditions. Among these influences: the ancient Greeks, Stoics, Existentialism and Transcendentalism (specifically Emerson & Thoreau). Physics and phenomenology are other subjects of interest to me. When it comes to fictional writing, I favor the works of Fyodor Dostoyevsky.  

Though the West had captured my mind early on in life, my heart has always felt most at home with eastern traditions. Some of the eastern influences on my thinking include the writings of Yogananda, Vedanta philosophy, Miyomoto Musashi (the Japanese swordsmen), Lao Tzu (Chinese mystic, scholar & philosopher) and Sun Tzu (Chinese general, philosopher & strategist). The writings of Venerable Master Hsing Yun have also had a significant impact. The Buddha’s life and wisdom have been exceptionally informative for me. 

I have been a life long martial artist. At age 11, I was introduced to meditation through martial arts training. I became a black belt in karate at age 19 and am one of several black belts in my family. Meditation, and martial arts, remain essential components of my daily life. Nutritionally, I follow a fully plant-based (100% vegan) diet. I do not eat any animal products such as dairy, fish or meat. My reasons for this are primarily spiritual, for the health benefits and the environment. I do not use drugs or drink alcohol. I prefer books over television and conscious conversations over idle chatter. Early to bed…early to rise. Life is beautiful…

Sensei Derek | Buddhist, Spiritual Counselor, Author & Martial Artist