Putting the Cookies on the Lower Shelf

Since I mentioned it earlier, I should include a run down on the Big Man’s visit. Last Friday night at 5pm during rush hour, we took the charter bus out to Buddha Gate in Lafayette. Several of us had to come directly from work with no food. It took us 2 1/2 hours get there and after a few prelims–finding buildings in black darkness, getting to our seats & receiving our translating headsets–we heard the lecture, which was extemporaneously delivered and lasted two full hours. I can only imagine that the Chinese attitude is “I came all this way from Taiwan and I’m gonna give you a nice long lecture with lots of repetition!” But what I was thinking–I admit, more than once–was “This is the sort of thing Castro & Mao used to do: keep people here interminably, listening & listening & listening.” (Western lecturers tend to keep things pithy. They do this by crossing out repetitions, rephrasing and so on.) Now, I will tell you exactly what went on. Our dear, hard-working Abbot was whispering the translation into our ears the whole time. He was really concentrating! Later he said that with such a fast speaker, it was hard to keep up. In a nutshell, here’s the lecture: We all suffer. Even though in the modern world we have lots of “resources” this hasn’t changed from ancient times. Then, a partial retelling of the life of the Buddha. 50 or 60 verbatim repetitions of “We suffer because we have incorrect views!” And then came the Big Finale we had all been waiting for. The solution to this predicament is…wait for it!…do good acts and refrain from bad acts. Then an offering was taken for a “monastery in Taiwan” and “the expansion project of the Buddhist Museum at Chang Tai Monastery in Taiwan.” Then we had a short time to stuff ourselves with the excellent meal the Buddha Gate ladies had provided for us and to get in the bus. We were back in Sunnyvale at 11:30pm.

The next morning, Saturday, we were  back at SVZC for Round Two. We were pretty sure that this lecture was going to be shorter since there was a ceremony scheduled and a plane to catch. (Some of the practitioners were going to take the Five Moral Precepts and become Bodhisattvas, and others were going to receive the Three Refuges and become official Buddhists.) The lecture started with some statements about how Silicon Valley was a center of technology, and the world was getting smaller. Then we were told, again, that lots of resources don’t protect us against suffering. Then we were given a partial biography of the Buddha, plus a story from the Sutras about Buddha watching the ants. Another offering was taken. Buh-bye.

For some weird reason, yours truly was supposed to eat in the VIP room. Maybe because I was an assistant to a teaching assistant. (Or maybe they needed at least one blond head in there.)  The food was…just okay. I’m really spoiled because our monastery food is usually so yummy. Oh, wait–I’m not supposed to evaluate stuff! Sorry. I did not stay for the Refuge/Precept ceremony. I left and cleaned the house.

The Grand Master & the Dharma Heir will be back here in a couple of years or whenever the building next door is finished & ready to be dedicated.

Oh, about the title of this post: I’ve heard a lot of Christian sermons, and for some reason speakers like to assume that the audience is totally naive, so they preach to about an “age 18, high school grad” level. Pastors do it…and apparently Buddhist teachers do that as well. I’m not sure that approach was justified at Buddha Gate; maybe it was in Sunnyvale because there were non-Buddhist guests sitting there in the front row. At BG & SV there are a lot of post-grad degrees, long-time practitioners, people who have read many, many Buddhist books, highly computer literate people, and professionals. Just saying.

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