(Part IV, Continued from Life’s Journey)
QUES: What did Buddhist want on ordering a hot dog? ANS: “One with everything.”
QUES: What did he say when asked for any change? ANS: “Change must come from within.”
With that warm up, I can now report some real “inside” goings on from a Buddhist meeting the past Sunday at the Chenrezig Tibetan Buddhist Center of Philadelphia.
First off, there ain’t a “holy roller” among ’em. They’re pretty much like you and me except they got a place they go each week to get energized through meditation, group chanting and a give-and-take spiritual discussion called Dharma. One member, the founder, is a supermarket manager, another a physical therapist. I met a hair-dresser, as well as an artist who’s painting the northeast side of William Penn’s statute above the city hall building. One woman, an officer, even hailed from my neck of the woods, Conshohocken, PA
Don’t know why, but these people let a perfect stranger attend a “membership” meeting. One feller kept saying he wanted more “transparency” and the Asian guy, Losang Samten, the spiritual leader here, agreed. The lay monk even said that monks from India in what he called a “cloistered‘ monastery wanted everyone to know about finances, insisting that more than one monk always know where the money was going, where the books were stored. Kinda like a check and balance, Buddha style.
Well, these Philadelphia Buddhists got about $1,600 after paying all their debts this year. That’s not including money they’re saving for a future house, and they would let a person know that amount if they e-mailed them. The money collected the past year paid for operating expenses, as well as the “stipend” for Losang who provides most of the spiritual guidance here. They also cover him with health insurance, and you know those cost will go up.
If you’re anything like me, you probably hate to hear money and God used in the same sentence. Most people don’t like the mix. When someone starts to “hit” you for cash in the name of the Supreme Being, you know it’s time to seek the Almighty from a different path. That’s why I’m going to make a lump-sum contribution to cover a year’s worth of “giving” here. Nobody’ll bug me for money, and I’ll be able to focus on what brought me here in the first place — saving what’s left of my Life. I figure I may have 20 to 30 years still in me, and I don’t want to squander it, so I’m looking to “get right with God” and give something back in my life — give some sort of service — for what I already took out.
None of the Buddhist at this meeting wore robes, except for the Tibetan monk. At least half of the men were half bald. No, they didn’t shave their heads as some sort of initiation requirement. They got bald the old-fashioned way, gradual hair loss through aging.
All members wore regular “street” clothes; I saw no one in a suit, no woman in a dress. Most wore jeans. They ranged from the mid-20s to mid 60s in age.
Membership was a big item on the agenda, second only to money. It seems there was no good way to keep track of people who show up from one week to the next. This is a spiritual center, and you can’t keep tabs on too many folk. They offer a newsletter by e-mail. They also can provide you CDs of earlier talks and some music. This coming week, the Center will have its first ever Live “Webcast” over the internet. You can see it around 1 pm EST on their Web Page Buddhist Center of Philadelphia. In the past, the group helped create a sand Mandela. They also retained guest speakers and organized retreats for spiritual gatherings; they planned more retreats for February and maybe the end of May, depending on the Dalai Llama’s schedule.
Some members got “down and dirty” when they talked about starting a new lending library for spiritual books, with a few suggesting amnesty for any that had walked off with another’s copy. I detected guilty looks on some faces, particularly those that spoke the loudest on securing the program. Me. I got a headache and started “tapping” EFT-style (Emotional Freedom Technique) until the closing remarks followed shortly after this mildly “heated” discussion.
I gotta hand it to the spiritual leader, however. Losang smiled throughout the meeting, showing keen interest in even the driest topics, rocking from side to side while still in the lotus position facing everyone. Nothing seemed to phase him, and he was able to cheer up everyone when he suggested a celebration for the “Tibetan New Year” some time around Feb. 15. That date is a Monday, somebody said, and the group settled for the day before.
Know any Buddhist jokes about a Love Fest held on Valentine’s Day? Stay tuned for Feb. 14, 2010.
(For more, see My X’Mas Wish List to the Dalai Llama)
Story Series Begins: On road to Peace, I found some “Bhuddies”