For my site visit, I decided to attend a meditation teaching at Wat Buddharangsi of Miami, which is a Theravada Buddhist Temple. When I first found out we had to do a site visit for our paper, I was excited yet very nervous. My whole life, I have only attended Catholic and Christian churches so coming out of my comfort zone was something to overcome. But I was eager to because for some time I have been curious about other religions and the way they worshipped.
Before attending the mediation teaching, I felt that it was vital to do a little research so I would know a little background of Buddhism. I also thought it was very important to research what to wear when I did attend. In religious settings you need to make sure you are dressed appropriately so you do not disrespect or offend anybody. I went online and found the official site of the Watt Buddharangsi of Miami, once I was on the page I found a visitor tab and there I found information of what to wear or do not wear. Their website stated, “Dress appropriately and conservatively for the place. Shorts, Bermuda shorts, miniskirts, bare midriffs and tank tops are NOT considered proper attire.” (“Wat Buddharangsi” n.d.)
As I arrived I was immediately taken away by how beautiful the Temple was. I had the chance to walk around a little bit before the meditation started, this helped me get a better feel of the area before going in! I noticed some other buildings around the temple, I assumed some to be classrooms due to the fact there was a little play area right outside. There was also what looked to be a small barn and a garden in the corner by the parking lot when you pull in. This and the fact that there were roosters and hens wandering around, I am guessing they may grow some of their own food for the monks. As I walked around everyone seemed to be very friendly, as I passed people they said hello or stopped to exchange in a small conversation.
Around 3 O’clock everyone started to make their way to the front doors of the temple. Everybody was dressed appropriately, women wore jeans with a dress shirt, long dresses, or flowy pants with a sweater, and the men mostly had jeans on and nicer shirts. When the monk arrived, he introduced himself and made sure we were all there for the mediation teaching. Immediately my eyes were taken to his outfit, he wore a bright orange robe and had no shoes on. Before we walked inside we were instructed to take our shoes off and place them on a rack outside, then to go in and grab a mat and sit on the carpet. The monk took a couple minutes before starting to let everyone look around and get settled. As I looked around, I noticed the room was overall simplistic allowing all the attention to go to the front of the room where the Buddha statue was. The Buddha statue took up most of the front of the room, it had a bunch of decorative vases around it filled with flowers, along with lights all around shining towards the statue. There were chairs lined up against the walls on each side, as well as a carpet right in front of the Buddha statue with a sign stating, “reserved for monks.” The monk who led the mediation sat on the carpet at the front, while everyone else spread throughout the room on their individual mats.
When everyone was settled down, the monk told us to get on our knees. At this point we, “Kowtow before shrines, bend down and stretch three times.” (Hays n.d.) After we did this, the monk began the mediation teaching by giving us a summary of the Buddhist history and beliefs. He explained the Watt Buddharangsi was a Theravada Buddhist Temple which means, “closest to the original teachings of the Buddha.” (“Theravada Buddhism” 2002) He continued to explain that Buddha was not a God, but a priest. The monk explained that Buddha believed life is suffering. But Buddha’s teaching shows a way to a pure life, but it is ultimately up to a person to make the journey to a pure life. A person who is looking to live a pure life is supposed to, “abstain from killing, abstain from taking that which is not given, abstain from sexual misconduct, abstain from false speech, and abstain from distilled substances that confuse the mind.” (“A Basic Buddhism Guide.” n.d.) Mediation is believed to help a person find his/her way to enlightenment which relieves a person from living a life of suffering. Through mediation one finds concentration, it helps your mind stop thinking of multiple things and focus on one thing at a time.
After the monk gave everybody some history, it was now our turn to try mediating ourselves. He told everybody to get in a crisscross position, placing their hands in their lap with one on top of the other. He then tells everybody to close their eyes and inhale and exhale slowly. We all sit crisscrossed, with our eyes closed, inhaling and exhaling for about ten minutes. Then the monk tells everybody to slowly open their eyes. He begins to critique us telling us how we can do things differently in order to get into a real state of mediation. It seemed as if everybody’s problem was we kept moving due to our legs getting numb, or we would scratch our arm or face, or just moved in general. The monk told us in order to get into true mediation, you need to completely concentrate and tone everything out. If your leg starts to get numb, or you find yourself with an itch stay in your positon do not give in and move, just concentrate on inhaling and exhaling. After the monk’s critique, he suggested we give mediation another shot. So, everybody gets a quick stretch in and goes back into the mediation position. After this mediation, the monk said everybody did much better with resisting the urge to move. He also told us ways to use mediation in our everyday life to benefit us. For example, he asked the room if anyone had trouble falling asleep at night, several people raised their hand. He suggested that we use mediate to get our bodies ready for bed and see if we notice a difference. After our discussion, the monk took some questions and we ended the mediation teaching session. He told everybody we were done, to bow three times to the Buddha statue as we did in the beginning, put our mat away and leave.
As I was walking out, I took a moment to look around at all the people who attended the mediation teaching. Everyone was different and had distinct characteristic about themselves. I noticed there were a lot of couples, but there was also a lot of single men and women, and a lot of younger kids. Based off my observation I feel as though the gender ratio of those who attended the mediation teaching was equal. At the beginning of the mediation the monk made it clear that everyone was considered equal under Buddha’s teaching. I would say Buddhism has equal gender roles, “while accepting the biological and physical differences between the two sexes, Buddhism does consider men and women to be equally useful to the society.” (“Buddhist Studies” 2008)
Overall, I enjoyed my experience visiting the Wat Buddharangsi of Miami. I feel as though it opened the door to my curiosity of exploring other religions. After doing this site visit, I will not be as scared to visit new religious settings. Going into this I felt as though I would feel like an outsider, but my experience was the complete opposite! I am happy with all I learned about Buddhism and more about how and why they mediate.
“A Basic Buddhism Guide.” Buddhist Teachings and Practice Paths, Buddha Dharma Education & BuddhaNet, www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/pathmaps.htm.
Buddhist Studies: Buddhism & Women: Position of Women, BDEA Inc. & BuddhaNet, 2008, http://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/history/position.htm.
Hays, Jeffrey. THERAVADA BUDDHIST TEMPLES (WATS), ARCHITECTURE AND TEMPLE RITUALS, factsanddetails.com/asian/cat64/sub415/entry-2818.html.
Theravada Buddhism, BBC, 2 Oct. 2002, www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/buddhism/subdivisions/theravada_1.shtml.
Wat Buddharangsi Buddhist Temple of Miami, thaitemplemiami.com/en/.
Below I attached a picture of the outside of the Temple and a poster I saw before walking into the temple!