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JUST ANOTHER TRIP AROUND THE SUN

 

31 of 52 Trip Around The Sun - Deer Park Monastery (Buddhist)

 

Sunday, December 1, 2002

 

Have traveled about 348,000,000 miles.

 

Thoughts during the week:

 

A friend in Utah, who’s been reading the reports, asks what I will do on my next Trip Around The Sun. I’ve been wondering myself – and have some ideas – don’t worry – it won’t be another sabbatical.

 

Considering last week’s “Side Trip,” and noticing there were no non-Christians included on the program, I got to wondering if my own trip is too heavily weighted to Christian denominations. I don’t find any Jewish congregations in Escondido – nor Islam. I will go to Poway and Rancho Bernardo.

 

I understand the Interfaith Counsel does include non-Christians – may just be hard to attract them to a group that is mostly Christian.

 

The Visit:

 

Deer Park Monastery (Buddhist) 2496 Melru Lane, Escondido, California

 

There is so much to tell – and no way to tell it well. This was quite an experience – lasting about 4 hours.

 

I arrived at the monastery grounds at about 10:30. I walked around the grounds trying to find my bearings. It was comfortable, both because of the physical environment and because all the people were friendly, if also very quiet.

 

I went into the Tea Room – found in there the following:

 

“Love and understanding Programs in Vietnam. They have brought much happiness, hope, and relief to the people whose lives have been touched by the love and understanding of our friends in the West.”

 

Orphans – The elderly without families – victims of monsoon floods.

 

I had raspberry tea.

 

Then I went into the book store. I bought a video tape – solely on the strength of its title. “Taking Refuge in our Parents.” I have not viewed it yet – may include something of that in the next report. I saw some plates (like large dinner plates) that had words on them.

in this food i see clearly

the presence of the entire

universe supporting

my existence

 

thich nhat hanh

 

 This is a thing I have believed for a long time. If you are interested, go to GoAskGrandpa.com and read “What We Must Own to Exist.” It is factually the entire universe.

 

As I was wandering outside, a man asked me if I was going to “The Talk.” I followed him to the right place for that. It was a single large room – flat floor – no stage nor lectern. Sitting was all on the floor – with mats. Everyone sat with legs folded (tailor-sitting?) I have never been able to do this with comfort. I was directed to an area roughly in the center of the floor.

 

Then the monk began his talk. It was in Vietnamese – His voice was deep and kind – but I could not understand his words. But I found that I was hearing each sentence first in Vietnamese and then in English – and the voice was feminine and just as sweet. I could understand everything the monk was saying – except for when he recited a poem. During that poem, the English did not come through at all – it was Vietnamese only, and I did not understand it.

 

Technology is wonderful – a modern day “interpretation of tongues.” That center part of the floor included little boxes – into which we could plug a small headset – and within the headset was this nice little nun’s voice – I finally saw her over on the side – with her microphone. When the monk recited the poem, she giggled – and then stated that this was a poem – and full of meaning that she could not put into English words. It wasn’t a great problem, as the monk continued to explain the meaning – in non-poem style – and the nun put that all into English just fine.

 

The monk said that he likes to read children’s books. He regards himself as a child and finds children’s books to have more truth often that the adult counterparts.

 

He centered his talk about the meaning in one of these little books.

 

They do not have “Thanksgiving” in Vietnam – it’s an American holiday – but they have a very similar time – a set aside time for feeling gratitude for everything. He said that a tradition was born from the introduction of a pumpkin pie – one that may have saved a family from starvation. From then until now, the pumpkin pie is an object of thanksgiving.

 

He spoke of a little stove. (His talk was an hour and a half – and I didn’t take a pen in with me – I’m trying hard to remember important parts. When the little stove quit working, they didn’t throw it away, as we do here – but kept it in the house as an object to be thankful for. It had served them over some period of time – and was now regarded as something to keep and remember. Just as we, when we die, do not lose our value – so with the little stove. Its value never ends.

 

This all made me think of my Dad. He was a very grateful man – and he was a “keeper.” We found a hundred rolls of old tape in the garage – some that you couldn’t strip an inch off without it tearing. There were a dozen cans of WD-40 in various stages of emptiness. You would not believe how many other things. Was this part of his gratitude? There were more than forty pairs of old glasses. There were almost a dozen old obsolete telephones in a large box.

 

The monk asked, “Who are you?” He said we might answer with a name, but that name is not who we are. We could say it is our body – the physical person – but disease and age make that go away – it’s temporary. He wanted to know who we were that is lasting. “The real us,” he said. We are never born – and we never die.

 

This tailor sitting was getting to me – my back will tell me for a week. I was also embarrassed the way I had to keep changing my position a little – while everyone else (about a hundred people) were sitting it what appeared to be perfect comfort. About half appeared Vietnamese or other Oriental – and the other half were Caucasian. Almost all the headsets were on the Caucasians, though there were a few younger Orientals wearing them also. I was the only one who could not sit still.

 

The talk was engrossing, and I got a little more comfortable with the sitting. As I write this report, my back is fine – we’ll see in the morning.

 

“and our mind,” he said. “Is our mind us?” “But when we sleep, we are not aware – where is the mind then?” “It is not our body, and it is not our mind.” “Things that are born – that die or sleep and go away – these things are not us.”

 

I wish I could remember more details – especially about the thanksgiving part of the talk – there was much – and I still find myself impressed with the general feel of it even with the details missing. This was an hour and a half talk – interesting throughout, and this is all the details I have.

 

Then there was a song (hymn?) in English. They mostly knew the words. “Please let us respect our teachers and our parents. Let us feel gratitude for all they do” – and it continued as a song of gratitude.

 

Then another song in Vietnamese. We had taken the headsets off – and I had lost my power of “The Interpretation of Tongues.” Once you have such a gift, it is hard to give it up. I would like to have known what was in that hymn. I suspect it may have been the same hymn of gratitude that I had just heard in English.

 

On entering, everyone took off their shoes and made a little bow. On exit, the same, in reverse.

 

There were little signs all about the grounds. This is quite extensive. Nothing is fancy or expensive looking – but perhaps a hundred or more acres and many simple buildings. One sign said, “enjoy breathing” There are generally no capital letters on anything. Another, “peace begins with a gentle smile”

 

I’m leaving the periods out of these quotes because I didn’t know another way to show that the signs had no punctuation.

 

There were large, probably ceramic, gongs. They looked like large bowls. When they were struck, everyone bowed – and were silent until the ringing quiets. There was one in this room for the talk. Another outside in the open area. Another in the eating area, which is coming now – after the talk. It is about 12:30

 

They call it “formal lunch.” The numbers increased to about 150 for this. The long line to get in was forming very gently – a few at a time would be at the door – no hurry whatever – by anyone. I got in the line, and shortly found I was not in the right line. There were two lines – one for females – one for males. I was in the female line. I switched, and there were some giggles – mild – but they were there – they felt inclusive – like laughing with me instead of at me.

 

Inside were two long tables filled with food. As each person gets to the table, he bows with his hands in the familiar “praying hands” orientation – fingers near the chin. Then that person picks up a spoon and chop sticks – a bowl and a plate. There was no meat in any of the dishes – and the food was quite wonderful.

 

In the large eating room, there were four long rows of pads for tailor sitting. All the women were sitting in two of these rows – and facing the men in the other two rows. Behind each set of two rows – were chairs – one row for each gender. I noticed it was the senior citizens that used the chairs, and so I counted myself among them.

 

Also notable – was that nobody was eating. No one takes a bite until all have filled their plates and taken their places. (Oh – no wonder no one was in a hurry to get in the line.)

 

Then I noticed – “Oh no,” of a hundred and fifty people, I was the only one with shoes on. Looking to the left, I saw the rows of shoes. I quietly got up – went back and removed my shoes. As I was returning, my appropriate repentance complete, two different men smiled gently at me. (Remember – peace begins with a gentle smile) I was made not to feel embarrassed at all – though there was a large sign which read, “please no shoes beyond this line”

 

About twenty minutes after I had filled my plate, it appeared we were ready to eat – one of the bowl-shaped gongs was sounded. They have a beautiful sound. I could pick up four distinct frequencies. On the initial contact, a loud near 800 CPS tone – which quickly diminishes into an about 400 CPS tone. Then there is a lower tone – perhaps 50 or 60 CPS – like you hear from florescent light fixtures – and the most interesting – a frequency below hearing of about 1 ½ CPS. (A little more than one per second) – and this one moves the 400 CPS tone up and down in amplitude at that low frequency. Everyone bows – and is silent, while this sound is going. It’s a beautiful sound – I would like to get one of these. The nature of the sound would indicate many other overtones which I could not pick out.

 

Everyone picked up a spoon – or a chopstick – but no – it was not time. They put the object in some food item, such that it stood vertical in the middle of the plate. Each of nine monks said little “blessings” on the food. I remember, in particular, the words, “We thank the entire universe for this food, without which we could not have this food.” Oh yes – another one, “Keep us not encumbered by thoughts of the past or of the future.”

 

About thirty minutes past plate-filling, we ate. My soup, which I was looking forward to, was cold – but delicious. Again – a reason not to be in a hurry to get into the food line – the later, the better. The entire meal was something special – I never had quite such a long-lasting era of thanksgiving before the meal. I’m always trying to get everyone to hurry up so the food will be hot, as if it’s really the food that it’s about. I really do think I learned something that will add to my sensitivity. Leona has always been better at this than I.

 

Both the nuns and the monks had shaved heads. They were not invisible of hair like “skinheads,” but had the color without any length – like a 5 o’clock shadow. Mostly, they had dark hair, so it was visible. A couple of older nuns had a white look without visible hairs. I had the thought that the little nuns had pretty little heads. They had sweet personalities – with those “gentle” smiles quite common among them – also among the monks.

 

It appeared to me that the nuns and the monks did not eat the food the rest of us were eating – but rice only – from deep small bowls.

 

After the eating was finished, the monks went out of the room – and re-appeared with some special robes – my neighbor told me they were going to pray for permission – I think to go to France. They returned to our room – and to their pads – passing directly past me. Two of them had obviously been crying – maybe more than two.

 

When to their pads – they each said a prayer aloud. I could not hear lots of it.

 

When this was finished, everyone stood to exit. Exiting was orderly. All went a line at a time to the rear of the room and then down the center back to the front, bowing, putting back on their shoes, and out, each carrying his own utensils and bowl and plate. As we went outside, each person moves along a line – a soapy bath for the dishes – then a rinse – and then another rinse – and then another rinse. The rinse water was being constantly replenished with new. Then there were towels to dry the dishes – and the dishes were stacked – and taken back to the kitchen. Each person washed his own dishes. It was all done in about five minutes. Hey – any activities chair-people reading this?

 

The long outdoor stairway back to the facility at the top was about equal to five or six flights – I had hardly noticed coming down. It reminded me of BYU from the South side of campus. Then I noticed on one of the steps – one of the little signs – “peace is every step”

 

 

I shall never forget it.

 

 

The Trip Around The Sun Hot Rod was parked in plain view – and drew absolutely no attention. This has never happened before on the trip, (nor did it happen after this visit either) - not among Christians, Jews, Muslim, Atheists, Hindus – nor anywhere at all. There is a certain “focus” that appears to preclude such interests here at Deer Park.

 

 

31 of 52 Trip Around The Sun - Deer Park Monastery (Buddhist)

 

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