I decided to visit Zen Desert Sangha especially the mediation event. I went there with an open mind to learn and also to know more about their culture. I had to time myself to ensure that I reached there before the event started. In most occasions, the Zendo is opened an hour earlier before any event takes place and this was also the same case. I had arrived twenty minutes early because I was informed that people are allowed to come early and can wait before the zendo is opened. My intention for coming early was also to explore the zendo to have a grasp of how the place looked like especially the structures and the equipments that it was made of for future reference. We were also asked to leave all our personal belongings such as backpacks and women purses which we placed on the shelves at the back room at the far end where no one could see them. On the other hand, we hung our coats in a closet that was near the restroom. All these procedures that were required of us just showed me how organized the Buddhism community is in real sense.
When the time came for the event, we were asked to remove our shoes and enter quietly from the front door. There were shoe shelves outside the door that we used to put our shoes. The actual place where the meditation event was to take place was inside the double doors on the right side of the zendo. After entering the zendo, there were alternative minutes that were allocated for each meditation with the first one being 25minutes which was the longest and the last one was the shortest because it took about five minutes to walk through the entire meditation. The first 25 minutes was meant for chanting and it started from 8.30 am to 8.50 am (Zendesertshangha 1). There were tasks that were to be completed in the event thus each person was selected to take part in it including us.
Since we were new in zendo, they asked us not to make any sort of social greetings even with people whom we knew because it was a mediation event that required total concentration. No eye contact was also allowed during the event in order to allow people to have a strong connection with their maker. Nevertheless, people like us who were not familiar with all the procedures we asked to look around to follow along. This is because ones the event had started, they did not permit any socialization and the best way in which a person who was new among them would learn was through visualization (Buddhisttemple 1).
On the other hand, I came to the realization that the Buddhist people were very understanding. This was based on the fact that they allowed us not to conduct any activity or procedure that we were not able to do. For instance, they allowed me and some other three men to not bow; I found bowing very uncomfortable for me and tiring thus I opted to sit down to meditate well. I simply sat quietly without any form of communication or activity until the mediation process was over.
There are several things that I learned about the Buddhism way of worship. They bowed down using their hands in a position that depicted that they were praying. I was told later that it was a way of showing respect to Buddha and nature. There were cushions that were provided in each room which people use for sitting down after bowing down to Buddha. I was told that it was a way in which the people were also bowing to the teachings or Dharma. On the other hand, bowing to Sangha involved turning the cushion together inside the room to allow the people to bow down properly (BBC 1).
It was also mandatory for everyone to face the wall unless they were directed not to like they did to us. I and some other people were allowed to sit comfortably on the chair. On zafu, or a seiza bench. There were also lap cushions that could be used as a source of support to anyone who felt a need to use them (Buddhisttemple 1). However, we had freedom to sit anywhere that we felt comfortable inside zendo. I heard the priests saying that a person could only enter zendo between the periods when the people were sitting down or whenever there was need for adjustment which was contributed by bodily necessity.
The prayer was short because it only took one and a half hours. The aim was for the people to place the event that was about to begin under Buddha. The event took about an hour a period when the Venerable leader not only prayed but also explained the true meaning of Buddha in the event (Zendesertshangha 1). I learnt that Buddhist has no interest in converting people like the Islam and Christians do. This is the reason they granted us the chance to not do things that we were not comfortable doing.
BBC.” Buddhism at a glance. Bbc.co
Buddhisttemple. “Religious services.”
Zendesertshangha. “Upcoming events.”