On Christmas Eve of 1992, Puddicombe was eighteen*, and studying sports science at De Montfort University, when he left a party with a group of friends. A drunk driver plowed into the crowd, killing several people and putting twelve others in intensive care. Puddicombe wasn’t hurt, but he witnessed everything. Soon afterward, his stepsister died in a bicycling accident. He couldn’t shake the tragedies. “They lurked in the mind,” he told me. Back at school, sports no longer interested him; neither did partying. One day, in his dorm room, Puddicombe had a strange experience. “It’s a very difficult thing to put into words,” he told me. “I felt—the only way I can say it is ‘deeply moved.’ ” The feeling lasted for several hours, Puddicombe said. When it ended, he knew what to do with his life: become a Buddhist monk. “It didn’t feel like a choice,” he said.