One of the things I am determined to start doing is checking out other Buddhist traditions and teachers. Reading their books is one thing, but to visit in person is entirely another.
My quest started in my own backyard of Point Richmond. There is a historic old church downtown that was formally known as Linsley Chapel (and I think it had a brief incarnation as Gaia House), but is now called the Dakini Temple, run by the Dharmata Foundation. I can’t find out much about their lineage, but I believe they say it is they are Vajrayana and the teacher is a young Tibetan monk named Anam Thubten Rimpoche.
The meditation hall was decorated quite simply. Surprisingly so considering the Tibetan origins of the teacher. There were three large thankas (Tibetan deity paintings), but no statues or offering bowls or other offerings. With few decorations, the beauty of the Julia Morgan designed building itself stood out. (The chapel used to be a popular wedding rental – not sure if it still available for those). There were close to 100 people there, mostly seated on floor cushions, though folding chairs were available.
When the Rimpoche entered the hall, there was no big ceremony – no standing up, no prostrations. He simply sat down and began the meditation without a word. I didn’t have a good session because I was distracted by all the noise of people coming in late, and by my own judgements of everyone around me. The two people who were seated in front of me were driving me crazy! They kept exchanging “meaningful” looks during the dharma talk, and the fellow was obviously not comfortable sitting on the floor so he changed his position every minute or two, and eventually he and his girlfriend ended up in some odd pretzel position with their arms and legs intertwined. I appreciated the relaxed atmosphere, but they were taking it too far!
The first half of the service was meditation, recitation of the Heart Sutra and chanting of the its mantra, recitation of a prayer by Shantideva, some Tonglen visualization and finally dedication. There was a brief break and then everyone came back for the dharma talk. While the Rimpoche’s English was accented, I found him easy to understand. He was teaching on Emptiness, my favorite topic! His manner was very gentle and thoughtful with the rare touch of humor. My initial impression is good.
It was interesting watching my mind though. In addition to all the judging I was doing of the other people there (who were almost all white, middle-class and middle-aged – just like me), I found myself holding myself back from trying to jump in immediately and find out about all their offerings and becoming a member. I’ve always had a tendency to jump for the comfort of commitment when I find something that is “good enough” whether that be a car, a place to live, a partner or a spiritual path. I’m determined not to fall into that pattern again.
The quest continues.