The OCeeker took his ecumenical soul to the Orange County Buddhist Church for some sutra sans the kama, meditation minus the Me'shell Ndegéocello, and dharma without the Greg.
Located at 909 S. Dale Ave., the meditation service took place in the church's mini-chapel, right next to the big Buddha building, which looks like Japan humped Irvine, creating a tan, stucco edifice with brown wooden trim, perhaps lovingly painted by Daniel LaRusso.
The church is a member of the
Buddhist Churches of America
, and practices
Jodo Shinshu Mahayana Buddhism
. It's mother temple is the
. And what's Kyoto famous for? Why, a nifty
song called "Kyoto Now!" that plays in the background as
climate change couples make love on top of copies of the
Jodo Shinshu means "True Pure Land Religion". It was the teaching of Shinran Shonin (Shonin means holy man), who was born in Kyoto on May 21, 1173.
Long story short, ol' Shonin got tired of monastery life, pissed off the priesthood by marrying a gal named Princess Tamahi, taught (against tradition) salvation through the power of Amida (the Buddha of infinite light and life), got banned from Kyoto, and at 45 years old, wrote his most important work, "Kyo Gyo Shin Sho", or "Teaching, Practice, Faith and Attainment", the foundation for Jodo Shinshu. He eventually made it back to Kyoto, where he taught and wrote and kicked the bucket.
The Buddhist Church of Orange County belongs to one of the two major branches of Jodo Shinshu--Higashi Hongwanji. That ain't hogwash, Henry. The main practice is to listen to dharma (teachings) as a way to find enlightenment.
In the U.S., the movement began about 100 years ago, and has spread throughout the country. The church in Orange County broke ground in 1935 on the property of Mr. and Mrs. Taikichi Kato in Talbert, in what is now Fountain Valley. It moved to Stanton in 1958, and eventually settled into its current location in 1965, the same year Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs topped the music charts with "Wooly Bully".
March 14, 7:30 p.m.
The OCeeker was greeted inside the mini-chapel by a white guy named Mark, who wore black religious garb over his street clothes, and a golden cloth wrapped around his shoulders. He was bald, except for gray hair around the sides and back, and looked to be at least in his 40s. Hanging around Mark, the OCeeker got himself a peaceful, easy feeling.
The mini-chapel was rather plain inside, with gray carpeting, and square-shaped woodwork all around. Cushioned chairs were lined up in rows, but there were only seven us there in total, with the whites beating the Asians 4-2. The OCeeker couldn't figure out what one other guy was, but he was dressed in monk duds.
At the front of the temple, there was a golden image of a Buddha in a little pocket of gold religious ornamentation, which included an altar, flowers (symbolizing fading beauty to remind us of change), incense in an urn (which symbolizes prayer and becoming one with others), and electric candles (symbolizing wisdom, light and power bills).
A man kindly handed the OCeeker a dharma service song book, who sat about three rows back on the right side. Asian No. 1 sat on the floor. Asian No. 2 sat in the row across from the OCeeker, whose cracker brethren, of various ages over 35, spread throughout the room.
Mark sat up front, with his legs crossed. He explained that we would meditate for 10 minutes seated, five minutes standing, and 10 minutes seated again. It was important for us to get comfy and find a "center" point in our posture, he said.
Eyes Wide Shut
Mark set reasonable expectations.
"We're not going to get enlightened; that's not really the point," he said.
The point was to watch how our minds work, but not hang on to our thoughts. Mark compared thoughts to incense rising, or carbonation in a bottle. Burp.
"A lot of Zen masters will say it's just sitting," Mark said.
Those must include Phil Jackson, who sat on his hippie ass through most games as head coach of the Lakers and the Bulls.
Mark said we could close our eyes, but recommended we shut them only halfway, so as not to fall asleep. He then rang a bell and the OCeeker got his meditation on (with eyes half-closed for peekies): naked women; hope the Lakers can beat the Hornets in overtime; where am I going to take that hot Mexican woman I picked this week?; naked women; 909Jeff (a commenter on OC Weekly's website) must be a hillbilly hipster because his avatar is the Pabst logo; theme to What's Happening!!; GenY men are wimps; 10 minutes is a long-ass time; naked women; etc.
Mark rang the bell again, and we did a little bow with our hands in a prayer-like position (palms pressed together and pointed upward). The OCeeker thought he made out the word "gassho", a greeting. The OCeeker mixed in "Gasol", a traditional Laker greeting meaning "don't trade me." We stood, and he suggested we not lock our knees during the five-minute mediation. He also explained that we "don't have to be in a temple to meditate", and we want to learn to take the practice out into our daily lives.
He rang a smaller bell, and the OCeeker got his meditation on again: in the heartland...Stater Bros.; naked women; do you know the muffin man?; naked women; bet I can get through the date with the Mexican babe for under $20; too bad it didn't work out with the girl I just broke it off with; she was actually intelligent; I was too much man for her anyway; Foster the People sucks; naked women; etc.
Mark rang the bell. We did the little bow thing again, and he explained that the biggest benefit of meditation is discovering that we can manage our thoughts, which enables us to deal with bad experiences in the past.
"You can control what you hang onto," Mark said.
He rang the big bell for the next 10-minute sitting meditation: a particular naked woman; Clayton Kershaw's curveball; people need to stop wearing fake mustaches and taking pics for Facebook, because it's not funny; damn, I just put on my sleepy pants; Yahtzee!; he lives on Drury Lane; men should never put smiley faces on the end of any message; naked women doing jazz hands; etc.
Mark rang the bell again and we bowed. He talked about the importance of meditating at least once a day and perhaps not flipping on the TV as soon as we get home, or turning up the radio when we get in the car.
Bumper Sticker in Parking Lot: Forgot to Look; Meditation Took it Out of Me
We then opened our song books and busted out some chanting, after Mark rang a bell twice. The chant was the Juseige, a gatha (song of praise) in the primary sutra of Shin Buddhism, "The Larger Sutra of Immeasurable Life". It's about the Bodhisattva Dharmakara promising to seek enlightenment and making 48 vows to the Buddha Lokes-vararaja. The gatha is his praise to the vows.
In the midst of the monotone chanting, the OCeeker snuck in some "Tang Soo Do and a do-si-do, Mr. Roboto" for shits and giggles.
Mark rang the bell a couple more times and we wrapped up the chanting.
He then summarized a story of Siddhartha, the OG Buddha, who struggled to find a way to deal with the sickness and suffering he saw around him. OG Buddha whipped up what would become some fundamental teachings called the "Four Noble Truths" (sounds like a Motown band), which explain the origin of suffering and how to overcome it.
Mark said we are going to cross "the gates" of suffering--old age, sickness and death. But, he said, a lot of suffering is caused by ourselves, and we, in turn, cause others to suffer, who then cause us to suffer because we have caused them to suffer. It's a loop of suffering, kinda like an OC Weekly article that causes the suffering of a reader, who then posts a lame-ass comment on the article, causing the suffering of the writer, who then complains to Gustavo about lame-ass readers, which causes the suffering of Gustavo, who then puts the writer on the pervert beat, which causes the writer to suffer, who then pisses of perverts with his stories, which causes the suffering of the perverts, who post lame-ass comments on the articles, which causes the writer to suffer. As Sylvester Buddha said: Suffering succotash!
Mark said we worry over suffering because we do not control our thoughts, which, ultimately, is something we can learn to do through meditation.
He then explained that to bow before the Buddha is not worship the image.
"We're actually paying respect for the teaching," he said. "It goes beyond the person so...we really are bowing to (the) teaching."
In turn, we each moseyed up to the altar, offered incense and prayer, then bowed, with the OCeeker lifting a quick "what up, dead B?"
Mark invited us to have tea and sit in on a dharma teaching, but the OCeeker was tuckered out from the meditating. Goodbye, melatonin supplements!
The OCeeker gave Mark's meditation service a C+. Warmhearted teaching mixed with meditation allowed the OCeeker to suffer past Anaheim's drivers before hitting the freeway.
At least half the guys greeted the OCeeker. Gassho to yooz guys too!
The Buddhist Church of Orange County meets every Sunday at 10 a.m., with meditation services at 8:30 a.m. every Sunday and 7:30 p.m. every Wednesday at 909 Dale Ave., Anaheim, (714) 827-9590; www.ocbuddhist.org