Since losing interest in Fo Guang Shan a few months ago, I've been looking around for a good sangha to get into. Naturally, a real sitting group would be ideal, and it wouldn't really matter which tradition such a group belongs to.
Of course, this is not necessarily an easy thing to find. There are no guarantees in life, are there? Except for the Four Noble Truths, I guess. So here's me, suffering (mildly) through my little search, because there simply aren't any groups near my home. At least, none that speak English. One of the last times I visited the FGS temple way down in Stafford, a couple of young ladies invited me to visit their temple, which turned out to be close to the house, relatively speaking. But that temple offers Dharma services strictly in Vietnamese. And it's been like that everywhere. I guess there aren't too many folks expecting to run into the English problem.
There's someone at my dojo who has experience and training in a soto temple, and he once ran a sitting group out of the dojo - but that was a while back. I'm trying to talk him into starting it up again, but I must admit that it's hardly worth his time and effort just for one person.
So, it's out onto the World Wide Web I go, looking for a sangha of the eletronic variety. Not as personal, and the way people talk to you online is entirely different from the way they talk to you in person. But, you get used to that, I guess. Point is, this way I at least get to talk to other Buddhists.
Mostly, all I've met online so far are con artists trying to get me to send my personal information to Nigeria or some other place, and angry Christians looking for someone to push around with their forced religion.
I have found some really cool websites for various manner of zen retreat lodge, dharma center, and Western-type Buddhist order. I say "Western type" because of the degree of AHF (Annoying Hippie Factor) involved. For example, I will steer clear of any Buddhist group (or any other group, for that matter) which espouses a platform of anti-military activities. People who say "Death and the military are one and the same" etc, do not represent my interests in any way, and those organizations are just flat wrong, in my opinion.
Lots of that out there. If you see that a group is based in Berkeley, California, be especially careful. Read their literature very carefully before speaking with them.
So meanwhile, here's me, digging through website after website and wondering just how much more there is out there.
How much I haven't yet found.
Wow. I picked up the current Tricycle Magazine last night while on one of our regular forays through the coffee shop and bookstore that is our Mecca, and then I spent most of the night reading it.
The first thing that struck me was how many commercial advertisements are in it. Now, don't get me wrong - I'm just as much of a capitalist as the next guy. And, while I'm there, I should point out that I love seeing all the cool Buddhist-related stuff that's available to buy. Statues, mandalas, malas and cusions of all descriptions. But, I wondered as I was flipping through the magazine, just how necessary is all of this stuff?
I've been guilty of being a Barnes & Noble Buddhist before (probably still am one now, if I'm honest). I love buying books on the subject of Buddhism. I read them quickly, and then only refer back to them at some distant point in the future. But that doesn't always help my practice, does it? I mean, am I sitting more, or better, or longer, than I would if I hadn't bought that latest Pema book?
Also, while thumbing through the pages, I begin to get that feeling that I had before, when I realized just how lost I am in this samsaric world - just how little I know about what's going on. I've always been a good student of history, philosophy, languages, stuff like that. And I think I understand Buddhism pretty well for a layman. But ya know what? I don't know jack. Seriously, I have no idea.
And I think that's how it's supposed to be.
OK so today's Buddha is shamelessly ganked from Buddhanet. I hope they don't mind. I thought it looks cool though.
Apologies for not posting anything in so long. I do have a few essays etc in the works, so it shouldn't be too long before I can get something posted here that will be worth your time to read.