Thursday, January 12, 2012

WBT Tuesdays

Tuesday night is now known in my house as "Wendy's-Buddhist-Target" night. This is Jack's name for the evening that begins with chicken nuggets and often culminates in a shopping excursion, with a nice, hour-long Buddhist service in between. At first, Jack was skeptical about attending Buddhist services with me, but now he looks forward to it—and not just for the pre-service fast food or the promise of perusing our favorite Big Box store (Target is located near Losel Maitri.) My pagan son has created his own Buddhist ritual.
    Upon entering the dharma center, Jack slips off his sneakers without bothering to untie the laces and bounds in to the meditation room. As I'm placing our shoes neatly in the vestibule by the door, I hear Lama Deshek greet him with a salutation he reserves for Jack: "There's the happiest person I know!"
  Jack doesn't quite know what to make of the saffron-robed Tibetan monk, but I sense there's an understanding between them that doesn't require a lot of chit chat. By the time I enter the room, Jack is in the corner where the meditation cushions are kept, building a fort out of large, black pillows. He will happily play there throughout the hour-long dharma talk, prayer service and meditation.
   The first night Jack attended this service with me, he set up plastic soldiers along the pillows. As we sat in quiet meditation, I heard his whispers as he spoke commands to his troops. I was grateful the other meditators didn't seem to mind, but now he knows that when Lama Deshek is teaching or when the brass bell chimes signaling meditation time, he must be quiet. And every now and then as we pray, I hear his reedy voice trying to incant the Tibetan prayers. By the time the service ends and hot chia tea and cookies (Buddhist communion) are served, Jack has forgotten the Promised Land of Target, and begs for more a few more minutes when I announce that it's time for him to abandon his fort.   
   My son isn't exactly a Buddhist, but he does seem to have set aside his trepidations about shaving his head or learning Tibetan. In fact, the other day he hinted at a true sign of acceptance: He asked if his friend Nathan could come to Buddhist services with us. I'm not sure the Sangha of Losel Maitri is ready for two ten-year-old boys setting up a fort in the meditation pillows, but no doubt Lama Deshek would welcome them with the same loving greeting.

   The following is my favorite prayer from the Tuesday night service at Losel Maitri. It invokes a desire for patience and compassion through a shift in perspective about the way we judge others and experience life. He may not understand its meaning, but it is gratifying to know that when we say this prayer on Tuesday night Jack is quietly listening.

Eight Verses for Training the Mind 
by Langri Thangpa

With a determination to accomplish
The highest welfare for all sentient beings
Who surpass even a wish-granting jewel
I will learn to hold them supremely dear.

Whenever I associate with others I will learn
To think of myself as the lowest among all
And respectfully hold others to be supreme
From the very depths of my heart.

In all actions I will learn to search into my mind
And as soon as an afflictive emotion arises
Endangering myself and others
Will firmly face and avert it.

I will learn to cherish beings of bad nature
And those oppressed by strong sins and suffering
As if I had found a precious
Treasure very difficult to find.

When others out of jealousy treat me badly
With abuse, slander, and so on,
I will learn to take on all loss,
And offer victory to them.

When one whom I have benefited with great hope
Unreasonably hurts me very badly,
I will learn to view that person
As an excellent spiritual guide.

In short, I will learn to offer to everyone without exception
All help and happiness directly and indirectly
And respectfully take upon myself
All harm and suffering of my mothers.

I will learn to keep all these practices
Undefiled by the stains of the eight worldly conceptions
And by understanding all phenomena as like illusions
Be released from the bondage of attachment.

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