Buddhism Religious Site Visit – Journal entry #1

For the site visit, I suffered through a night long internal debate, and finally decided to explore Buddhism.
I decided to contact the Bodhi Path Buddhism center; a specific branch on Coral Way. This center was far smaller and less intimidating as opposed to grand Buddhist temples such as one in Homestead. Initially I felt nervous and out of place, a complete outsider; and I was absolutely oblivious of the very harmonious nature of this religion. This Buddhist center was not your typical Buddhist temple; it was essentially a small office, within a small office building. The ‘layout’ of religious artifacts held a ‘western’ feel to it. I entered the office and initially it seemed abandoned, which definitely made me uncomfortable. After fidgeting nervously for about a minute and a half, I was preparing to leave, until I was greeted by a Buddhist monk. For some reason I was taken aback at his appearance, wearing his elegant monastic robe, which contrasted with the modern atmosphere of the office. I knew the dress code for Buddhist temples were specific and ‘reserved’ in nature; I had covered my body completely, yet forgot to bring a scarf to cover my torso; however the monk reassured me that the long sleeve dress shirt I was wearing had been sufficient. Although this center was not necessarily a temple, the monk made it clear for me to remove my shoes at the entrance, out of respect the holy artifacts. As I explained to him my purpose for visiting, his calm, warm demeanor made me feel at home; and my anxieties had evaporated gradually. As I was seated in front of his desk, I began to ask about Buddhism in general; and what ideas a novice should be introduced to, to fully and holistically understand the religion. He began by describing the main focus and curriculum taught in Bodhi Path Buddhism centers, which is the Path to Awakening. To achieve this ‘Awakening’ one must go through a 7 point mind training ‘lifestyle;’ and the first step was to calm or pacify my mind. He continued on with various explanations of vital dharma teachings; all focused on achieving mental stability and peace. I then began to inquire about the religious artifacts set up around the office space, exercising extreme caution, refraining from directly pointing at any one of the artifacts, especially ones representing Gautama Buddha. The monk explained various symbols especially the eternal knot, which represents how everything in the world is intertwined and connected with each other, shortly afterward I thanked the monk for his extraordinary helpfulness and departed from the religious center.
Throughout the whole visit, I did not receive the typical Buddhist experience I was expecting. For one we did not engage in any form of meditation, it may be because I simply did not ask to do so. It may also be the fact that I was a complete stranger, with a surprise visit, asking so many questions, on a busy Wednesday afternoon. The monk himself was seemingly calm and at ease throughout countless waves of questions, yet I did not achieve a true connection with him and the atmosphere around me, only relief as to my fear of a hypothetical, skeptic and disapproving Buddhist monk; which luckily, wasn’t the case. The dharma teachings and mind training techniques were very unique and peculiar to me; it had never occurred to me that one could achieve such a pacified and introspective state to achieve a healthy lifestyle and maximum happiness regardless of negative outcomes from our stressful, modern society. As for the first time, venturing out of my comfort zone, I still long for a full-fledged experience, to throw myself into the world of mental tranquility and peace that can be achieved through Buddhism.

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