Monday, May 10, 2010

Finding Buddha Part 3

Taking Refuge

Finding Buddha...(Part 1)
Finding Buddha...(Part 2)

Saturday finally arrived.  I had been waiting and waiting, so full of anticipation for the big day.  My last class in the Foundation Series at Drepung Loseling Monastery was on the schedule.  The class was on Refuge and ended with the opportunity to take the Refuge and Precept Vows, which mark the formal entry into the Buddhist Path.
I had been reading and meditating for weeks to prepare for the day when I would be able to proclaim my decision to "take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha".  The day proved to be one of the best days of my life.  All the investigation, study, and meditation were validated and I had a truly life changing experience.
This actually marks the 3rd time I have formally declared myself to be devoted to a religious tradition.  The first time was at vacation bible school as a 7 year old child.   Rehobeth Baptist Church was a super church way before the term was chiche.  It was like going to Six Flags over Jesus for a 7 year old. They even had a basketball gym instead of a fellowship hall.  Their VBS was big business.  They bussed in as many of the day care centers as they could and ran buses throughout the are for those at home during the summer.  It was a great time.  I was completely overwhelmed by the  grandness of it all.  At the end of the week they passed out a card with a prayer of salvation on it and had the final ceremony in the big auditiorium.  They let all the kids know that all they had to do to become a member of the church is repeat the prayer on the card. After the alter call,  they asked everyone that had prayed the prayer to come down to the front and they gave us a letter to give to our parents telling them we made a decision to join Rehobeth and they should contact the church for baptismal information.  Everyone prayed that prayer.  We were all caught up in the fun and play of VBS and had no idea what it really meant.  Of course my Mom and Grandfather explained it all to me and I never went back to Rehobeth for anything except church softball (there is another post in that alone).
My second declaration was on more modest terms.  My grandfather had returned to the small church that he and his brother had founded in the late 1950's.  We had been there for several years and I had not wanted to be baptised until I really understood what I was doing after my experience at VBS.  So now at 14 I was one of the oldest youth members of the church.  So after a while I finally decided I needed to make a decision and asked Mom to pray with me after church one Sunday and just like that I was getting ready to be baptised.  It was a big moment in my life.  I remember that prayer with my mother to this day ( especially today as it is Mother's Day as I write this and my mother is no longer with us).  As I related in my earlier posts,  I took my Christianity seriously, but it always created more questions than answers for me.
That lead me up to Saturday and my decision to become a Buddhist, a decision that I have thoroughly investigated and am so pleased to have pronounced formally.  Although no longer a Baptist or even a Christian,  my Christian experiences remain a driving force in my life, shaping  the questions and answers and understanding of the Buddha's teaching.  We all carry our experiences forward in our journeys for good or bad.  My journey has taken a turn down a different road  but I feel better prepared by each step I have taken to get here.