Meditation has led me to some very interesting places and opportunities. It’s allowed me to train my mind in new ways as well as allowing me to be more open to new external situations. This past Friday was one of those situations. The second pledge class of Delta Beta Tau completed our last retreat at Pao Fa Temple in Irvine. We arrived at 7pm and spent the night to join the nuns in their morning/afternoon rituals. Without revealing too much for future participants (where would the fun in that be?) it was a challenge to say the least. Life in a monastery is probably one of the hardest paths you can choose, even harder than life in prison (no kidding, this comparison was actually made). But the difference is life in a monastery is chosen, prison is not. Just keep that in mind.
With that said, it was an amazing experience. In the midst of bowing and chanting, while my knees were aching and my head was spinning from constantly standing up and down, I felt a veil of peace and contentment fall around me. Even though I was exhausted, it felt right. Compare it to the feeling you get at the gym when it “hurts so good.” It was a good kind of pain, the pain that brings about satisfaction. In this huge decorated room, with 3000 Buddha statues consuming every view in sight, I felt small, yet connected. I realized that I was participating in something so much larger than myself. When was the last time I did something for someone other than myself/family/friends? I definitely struggled in thinking of a few examples. But everything I was doing in those moments were purely for the benefit of others, others I haven’t met or probably will never meet. This is constant in monastic life. Every task they do, every film they watch and every practice they participate in is so the world can be a better place. There is no differentiation between humans and their relationship to them. Their simple wish is that every single being on this Earth is happy and free from suffering, period. It’s a really beautiful thing.
The concepts and ideas these people are contemplating every day are so much larger than any problem I have or that I will ever deal with. It made my worries seem so silly that right then, I felt embarrassed to even think about the problems I had waiting for me on the other side of the temple walls. While I’ve resumed my life as a layperson, I hope to carry this connection with me wherever I go. Traditional religion was never a topic that appealed to me, so the fact that I was able to find wisdom while bowing to giant statues in a black robe is quite the turn around. However, I wouldn’t have it any other way. :)
- Sarah xx