The Granada Hills Gathering

I'm a Buddhist. Can't help it really, since half my family is Asian and growing up, it was the only "religion" I had around.

Anyhoo, you may or may not have noticed that there's a lot more churches in G.H. than Buddhist temples, so we Buddhists usually just go hang out at each other's houses. The nice thing about that is after we're done doing our Buddhist-y things, we can do stuff like swim in the pool or raid the refrigerator or pick fruit off each other's trees. That's good, because meditation always makes me hungry.

Scanning, I found some more local Buddhists who were kind enough to host a gathering in their home. They also promised bagels and a potluck brunch afterwards, so I was sold.

When I rang the doorbell, I was greeted by a man wearing a flowing, saffon-colored Lakers T-shirt named Bill. Here, the practice was Nichiren Buddhism, which, unlike Vipassana, involves chanting.

Bill told me that he got involved in Buddhism in his early twenties when his motorcycle broke down. Walking down the road back to his home in Berkeley, a girl pulled her car over and said, "Hey, wanna go to a Buddhist meeting?" Bill climbed in, and once they arrived, he felt strongly moved by the sounds and vibrations the unified chanting of the group created. "I felt a sense of peace and unity that I'd felt only on rare occasions in the past," he said.

When I arrived at Bill's home, the chanting was already in full swing, and I found the atmosphere a marked contrast from the silence I'm accustomed to. But when in Rome, you meditate like the Romans, so I plunked down my cushion and took a seat.

Meditation is supposed to be about quieting the mind, but sometimes that's tough when you're in a totally new environment. But here goes. Okay, follow the breath. Breath. Breath. Breath. Wow, what a beautiful quilt. Breath. Breath. They're saying Nam Myoho Renge Kyo. Oh, it's just like in that Tina Turner Movie, What's Love Got To Do With It. The one where Ike is beating her up. That was so cool, how she used the chanting to gain the strength to stand up to him. What does Nam Myoho Renge Kyo even mean? In the movie, they said chanting was like a mirror. Okay, drop it. Meditation. Breath. Breath. Breath. And then she's backstage, and Ike comes to beat her up again, and she calmly tells him off. Should I be chanting too? I'm not sure I'm ready to join in. The "yoho" part reminds me of pirates. Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me. Okay, stop thinking about pirates. Think about your breath. Watch the thoughts go by. Breath. Breath. Breath. Pirates of the Caribbean is about Pirates. And it's about a ride at Disneyland. And it had Johnny Depp in it. Johnny Depp is sexy as a pirate. Wait, stop thinking about pirate sex. Think about meditation. Okay, follow the breath, follow the breath. Watch the thoughts pass by. Breath. Breath. Breath. Why does that guy talk with a normal voice but chant with a nasal voice? Are they going to have bagels after meditation? I'm so hungry. I should have eaten more breakfast. Breath. Breath. Breath. They said they were Jewish, they probably have good taste in bagels. Okay, I'm going to try chanting now. Nammyohorengekyo Nammyohorengekyo Nammyohorengekyo. Ooh, vibrations! Vibrations in my chest! That feels cool! No wonder they do this. It sounds like a song. Better than any choir. It's pushing out the other extraneous thoughts. Nammyohorengekyo Nammyohorengekyo Nammyohorengekyo. Who was that actress in the Tina Turner movie? Angela something. Stop, you're here to meditate. Breath. Breath. Breath. Breath. Nammyohorengekyo Nammyohorengekyo Nammyohorengekyo. It sounds terrific! Breath! Voices! Vibrations! Harmony! Unity! Bassett! That was her name! Angela Bassett!

And then the gong rings. Yay! Bagels!

Bill Anker, Host

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