For the purpose of my site visit paper I decided to go to the Wat Buddharangsi Buddhist Temple of Miami. I actually visited the temple last semester with my friend who was taking a religion class at that time.
The first thing we did before even going to the temple for the meditation class was call and inquire about it. Entry was actually really easy and we didn’t have to do anything special; The lady on the phone said that the meditation classes were open to the public and that it is a great experience for all people of varying ages. She also said that we had to dress conservatively and respectfully- covering our cleavage and preferably in long pants.
When I first arrived at the temple I noticed the beautiful architecture, the symbols on the building, and the colorful garden. The atmosphere was very serene and calming. Before walking in we were first instructed to take off our shoes, place them on a rack, and then grab a matt and a pillow. We walked onto the big red carpet, sat, and awaited instruction. Throughout the duration of our class the doors were open. I really liked this because I could smell the fresh air and I felt really connected with nature for the natural sunlight was amazing and the garden outside was stunning. Our meditation leader was an elderly, Asian man. He would instruct us to get into certain poses and steady our minds, focusing only on the sound of his voice- which was very soothing, might I add. Honestly, this was a lot harder than I expected it to be. I had a difficult time concentrating and I often times found my mind drifting and my body parts would begin to go numb. I guess monks dedicate their lives to training themselves (mind, and body) to be able to focus for prolonged periods of time. One thing I distinctly remember is that the guy made use of a lot of weird analogies. He would tell us to feel like the ocean was running through our hair, and to imagine that we were all pretty butterflies in a garden (at one point he even said something strange about Santa Clause).
When the medication class concluded, our “teacher,” if you will, wanted us to bow down to buddha at the 5 sacred points (I think that’s what it was). This was the only thing that really made me feel excluded. Personally, I did not want to bow down to Buddha…it didn’t feel right so I respectfully took my leave.
As far as demographics were concerned, the temple and meditation class had some of everyone: there were old people, young people, men, women, Asians, Hispanics, Whites, and even one or two Black people. The diversity was astonishing and I did not feel out of place at all. I do not recall, however, seeing any authentic monks. Before my visit the lady said that they do have monks who pop up every now and then, but that they aren’t always seen. I was looking forward to meeting one, but I guess I’ll save that for another time.