Monday, August 8, 2011

Exploring Buddhism


  It's my goal to be open-minded, even when it comes to religion.  So I try and remain objective and give each one a fair shake, regardless of how biased I am against the concept in general.  Today, I decided to take a step toward the ways of the Far East and lend part of my time as well as an open ear into discovering Buddhism.

    I met someone different today,, the lady at the bus stop went out of her way to sit down next to me on the bus.  I think she saw the pain in my eyes and really wanted to help.  Most days I'm pretty good at concealing it but this morning I just didn't have the strength.  Sometimes, the weight is just too much and you just can't help but feel crushed underneath the burden.   She told me there was a way to make the hurt dissolve and gain happiness as well as any other desire that I want out of life.  All I have to do is chant these words..

NAM-MYOHO-RENGE-KYO

 Simple translation..

"Devotion to"- "The Mystic Law" - "of the Lotus (Karma)" -" Sutra (Teachings of Buddha)"

   I'm glad she couldn't read my mind because if she could she would see an image of my eyes rolling to the back of my head, but I let her talk.  I was on my way to the mental hospital to commit myself, but I guess there was no need to rush there. I'm sure the crazy house can wait another day.   So she continued to educate me on how chanting these words will make you one with the universe, you will become a better person, etc, etc..  making an attempt to get me to recite the words with her.  I politely declined, letting her know that I don't participate in cult activities.  Besides, I really wasn't in a chanting mood, but she could continue to talk if she wanted too.  I have have to admit, eastern philiosphy has always been a curiosity of  mine.  They seem to be the most concerned about maintaining peace and harmony than any other sect so it can't be all bad. Keeping that in mind I volunteered to accompany her to the ritual and observe.  I really don't have much to lose these days so why not. 

LA Friendship Center
  She took me to a place called the L.A. Friendship Center (hey, can't go wrong with a name like that I guess). When we arrived the chanting was already in progress.  The people that practice this religion are very committed because they sit there like stone and chant without a flinch.  Luckily, we got there late because as I understand it the chanting can last for up to several hours.  However, since they were now in the final stretch she was able to encourage me to stay the last 30 mins.   They have really managed to keep the task simplified.  Those words are the only words you have to know, and you repeat them non-stop over and over for what seems like an eternity.  Maybe now and then you rub your little beads during the process for good luck or whatever reason it is (I asked but never really got a clear answer on that one) but most of the time you chant until your throat runs dry.  In fact, the chanting is still ringing in my head as I type this, like one of those songs you hear on the radio and now it's stuck on repeat in the back of your mind.

  Afterwards, I lent her some more of my time while she brewed a pot of coffee for us in one of the center's kitchen.   She would get so excited about how much joy the chanting brought her that I hated to cut it short.  I've noticed that sometimes you can really do a lot for a person just by listening.  Most people really don't have the patience for that so I volunteer.  It seems so liberating for people to express themselves so extensively.  I don't think anyone has ever really sat down with me and just let me unload everything that is on my mind.  Normally, whenever I do try, they will sit there for about 3.5 seconds and then it's time to pass the mic.  Nowadays, It really doesn't bother me that much anymore because I know it's just human nature.  After all, I've learned to keep things bottled up for so long that the need to just let it all out has diminished. I think its better for me to just keep it inside anyway rather than having to shift focus to the other person right in the middle of pouring out all of my thoughts. 

  In review, Buddhism doesn't seem all that bad to me. It appears to have it's highlights.  At least there was no pastor passing around a collection plate trying to hustle me for change so he make payments on his new Mercedes Benz.  Nobody really trying to force or pressure me into believing that their way is the right way.  They just come in, do their little chant for a couple hours, and then go on about there business,  For the most part, everyone seems pretty happy.  Of course,  when it comes to religion I guess I am rebellious by nature.  So telling me I am going to receive everything I want in life just by simply reciting a few words is a tough pill to swallow. In their defense, there was definitely a lot of positive energy flowing throughout the group.  Everyone seemed genuinely fulfilled by the path they have chosen..and I guess in the end, that's all that really matters. 

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