29 November 2009

Enlighten Me / CONTEST: Day, uh, I lost count....

My family moves a lot, and whenever we do, and even occasionally when we haven't, we do what my mom has dubbed "church shopping." We are Missouri-Synod Lutherans, and there are a lot of our denomination's churches in my state, despite the fact that it's not actually Missouri. Every time we go to check out a new church, there are always a gaggle of supposedly-Christian people staring at us like we're outsiders, unwelcome in the house of God. I'm a paranoid person to begin with, and having people that I'm supposed to be in fellowship with staring at me like I'm oozing pus does not help the fact that we change churches quite a bit. Add in the fact that my sisters don't know how to behave, and it's a nightmare to go anywhere.
I bring this up because today, Spock and I went downtown to Chicago to visit a Buddhist temple, as part of my world religions class. Instead of the glaring that I am so accustomed to receiving whilst "church shopping" in the Christian community, the Buddhists welcomed us, and were very accepting, even though neither of us had ever practiced before. As a part of their meditation practices, first-timers are required to go through a short instruction. Spock and I learned how to properly meditate, as well as the proper mudras [hand positions] to do at certain times, and then we joined the Buddhists in a 35-minute meditation period, followed by chants and a dharma talk. Dharma talks, from what I experienced, are the equivalent of a sermon, though instead of reading and interpreting one book of scripture, it would seem that Buddhists take lessons from a number of different books, by many different authors. More interesting still, these books weren't all written thousands of years ago; some of them are quite contemporary. For example, today's dharma talk was an interpretation and discussion of some passages from Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, by Shunryu Suzuki; it was written in 1970. Following the talk, we all participated in cleaning the zendo, which is the place of meditation, as well as the rest of the temple. Each person does their part to clean the temple silently, in reflection. It's very peaceful. And then, in a tradition mirroring that of Lutheranism's "cookies and coffee in the church basement" tradition, we all had tea and cookies in the kitchen, which also serves as a lending library and fellowship hall. If you are picturing great amounts of people, you are sorely mistaken. Including Spock and myself, there were nine people present.
During the tea and cookies, I talked about my background, and asked the Buddhists about theirs. They were very cheerful and open about it; that was relieving. I've always heard not to talk about religion and politics, but religion seemed to be quite an wasy subject for them. They had stories about experiences with Christianity, about how they came to Buddhism, and even offered to e-mail me with more answers! This is definitely going to help me write that paper.
Spock enjoyed himself as well, and I think he was glad that I woke him up at 4AM so we could get there on time.

On a different thread, this contest is going very badly. There have been no new entries, so I'm going to assume that six is all I'm going to get. The poll will be opening on December 1st.
I'm not really up to a list today.

1 comment:

  1. Haha xD the only family I have in the United States is my Uncle, he lives in Missouri too. When I went to the Vietnamese church there I got the same staring that you did so I've got a pretty good idea of how you felt. In Vietnam my family is Buddhist so they took me up to a Buddhist temple for a visit. Monks are so nice and accepting of people despite whatever background they come from.