I fell to my knees, slowly crawled along a mat, and “scrunched” my bottom onto a firm, six-inch pillow. Tucked my legs beneath my raised body and closed my eyes, ready for this Service.
They started chanting. About 25 other souls who appeared here after braving a rainy Sunday morning, were speaking a foreign language in this, the Chenrezig Tibetan Buddhist Center of Philadelphia. An Asian man wearing a brown “monk’s” robe led the Prayer Service. He sat in the Lotus position on a platform some 10-to-12 inches above a white painted wooded floor. He smiled often. And spoke the Tibetan language as well as English, someone told me later.
About ten people sat in chairs, possibly to prevent any stress to bad backs. The rest of us sat on the comfortable pillows that rested above red, padded mats measuring some 2-by-3 feet. Candles were lighted toward the front of the center. There was a slight smell of incense; I was told that someone had lit, but then extinguished a stick, because another suffered from allergy to the scent.
Each of us were provided a red-covered “prayer” book, containing some 50 pages of various prayers and chants in both English and possibly Sanskrit and/or Tibet. Pictures of Buddhist deities as well as one of the Dalai Llama headed some pages. A larger picture of the Dalai Llama rested in what I called a “guru-like” posture behind the Philadelphian spiritual guide.
Somebody mentioned how fortunate “we” were because the spiritual leader, Losang Samten, planned to perform a “tea ceremony.” Great, I thought. I heard of this in my earlier practice with mindfulness meditation the past year, but never witnessed or took part in one. Fellow practitioners were “once-a-week meditators” and seemed to simply “tolerate” the Dharma presentations our Zen teacher mixed in with “body scans,” “sitting” sessions, and the occasional “walking meditations.”
How did I — a red-blooded U.S. veteran, one awarded a bronze star for fighting for flag, mom’s apple pie and everything American — end up bowing to a bunch of Buddhists? What beckoned me to mingle with fellow Philadelphians who not only helped support a spiritual leader to guide them toward “Enlightenment,” but to teach of a spiritual movement created twenty-five hundred years ago by a prince who exchanged riches for the life of a beggar in trying to end mankind’s suffering?
Synchronicity. Stuff like this happens, according to the psychologist, Dr. Carl Jung. And, coincidence has nothing to do with it. I planned to have lunch at a “Spaghetti Warehouse” with my first and only gathering of a “Meet Up” Group up the street from the Buddhist center. We were to “tour” or simply “attend” the Buddhist service and then discuss the activity over food and possibly a drink.
I never made it for spaghetti. Never got a chance to formally introduce myself to the “Meet Up” people. I simply stayed for the Buddhist semi-annual meeting with the permission of one of the group’s officers who allowed me, a non-member, First Generation Greek-American, to see the “behind-the-scenes” goings-on of full-fledged Buddhist followers.
I quickly learned they were no more different from you and I.
Please see Part II, –Meditation lets my energy flow