My religious upbringing included waking up early on Sunday mornings to attend children's service/Sunday school, morning worship, and then regular service. Sometimes, we would attend an evening service with just enough time to eat at a buffet in between services. Ryan's anyone? Sundays can, and have been, as long as a work day. Especially, when the pastor was a guest speaker at another church and you had no choice but to go. I, vividly, remember not being able to concentrate for the waft of collard greens and fried chicken floating through the congregation from the kitchen. You know exactly what I'm talking about!
Yes, I’ve been there, grew up in it like majority of my friends. Wait! Let’s not forget the old Baptist churches in the middle of nowhere whose main instruments were tambourines and feet stomping against hardwood floors accompanied with fans with Jesus posing with a baby lamb or MLK Jr. that your grandmother swore would keep you cool. But it didn’t. Why? Because the top of the fan folds down when you fan it; the crease is so deep it makes you wonder when, if ever, they were new. Maybe when Jesus was alive?
My point is, I never experienced anything outside the religious structure of Christianity until 2015.
I was asked to attend a festival at a Buddhist Temple; the Jade Buddha was on tour and came to Charlotte to promote universal peace. I was excited but others I told weren’t too thrilled about my coming adventure. ‘Make sure you pray before you go.’ and ‘Anoint yourself with oil. You don’t know who those people pray to.’ Albeit true, I was shocked to see an old saying right before my eyes: People are afraid of what they don’t know. Nevertheless, I went.
The temple was a small house heavily shaded with tall trees. On a clear, you could see the sun shining off the water from the Lilly pond in the back. Walking under the bright yellow banner with bold red letters, I remember feeling a sense of peace fall over me. You honestly do not know how stressed you are until your body relaxes and that’s what I felt. It was a wonderfully serene experience. Side note: I should've taken more pictures.
Fast forward to 2018, I decided to visit a Buddhist Temple…again. So, remember when I posted this: (Insert boomerang video).
Well, that’s where I was. At the Charlotte True Buddhist Temple.
Before you bombard me with all the questions, let me answer them for you:
1. I am not converting.
2. I am not trying to find myself through religion.
3. I am not doing this for entertainment.
4. I have not turned my back on God (rolls eyes).
Are you ready for my answer?
....Because I wanted to learn something new.
No, really, it’s that simple. Probably not the philosophical answer you were expecting or one that would satisfy you completely, but it’s the absolute truth. I took it upon myself to step out of my comfort zone and learn about something completely different from myself.
Are you still there? Yes?!
Since that’s out the way, let me first say: This will NOT be a history lesson. I’m only sharing the new things I learned and pictures!
Now, for what I learned:
1. There are 3 upper levels Heaven and 3 lower levels Hell. In Heaven, you get to spend 9 million years in the lap of luxury before descending to the second realm; Asura as a Jealous Demi-God. Then there is the Human realm, which according to Buddhism, is the best realm.
The 3 lower levels: Animal, Hungry Ghost (imagine a green ghost with a clamp around his neck with a potbelly. Each time he gets close to food it denigrates into puss), and last, but not least, Hell where you will spend 1.62 trillion years. Sounds like an eternity to me.
2. There are three vehicles to reincarnation or Samsara: Small, Great and Diamond.
The Small vehicle (Hinayana): are self-liberators. In other words, they ain’t worried about us seeing the light!
The Great Vehicle (Mahayana): are those who seek self-liberation and vow to enlighten others.
The Diamond vehicle (Vajrayana): Along with vowing to enlighten others, they use secret tantric practices to help them reach enlightenment faster--84,000 ways in fact.
Still here? Great! Because I also went back temple for their Bathing the Buddha Ceremony. And yes, we were bathing a little Buddha. The ceremony is to celebrate Buddha's birthday. Curious to learn more just click on the link:
Enjoy the pictures!
The first picture above is a wooden fish drum, love the detailing, played during the ceremony. The inside is hollow, so the sound comes out deep almost like an echo. The little boy standing in front of me, we stood the entire hour and thirty minutes, found the tempo just fast enough to do this popular dance.
In sharing this experience, it is my hope that you will step out of your own bubble; whatever that may look like for you. Do it. So many times I’ve witnessed people dismissing an idea/belief that differs from them. Often using the excuse, "I don’t know anything about it," but never taking the opportunity to learn. The bits of information I picked up does not make an expert! I mean, I barely scratched the surface. However, by having an open mind and being receptive, I know more than what I did. And there was nothing scary about it! I LIVE for learning something new. As my granddaddy used to say, "The more you learn, the more you don't know."
If you’re brave, or curious, enough to attend. The Charlotte True Buddha Temple has a Buddhism 101 class the first Sunday of each even month (August 5th).