I finally took the time today to visit the Kadampa Meditation Center and participate in their lunchtime meditation. I’ve been subscribing to their e-newsletters, and have kept the center present in my mind to some extent. It took me (I think?) about a year to finally go see what it’s all about.
The center is tucked away in Elysian Valley, an area I like to call “The Dry, Brown Land east of the Silverlake Reservoir”. It’s right in the middle of a rather non-descript residential neighborhood in what looks to have once been a small neighborhood Christian church? Hard to say. A little sign asks you to enter through the garden, which a modest and sweet little oasis with a fountain and footpath. The first main building you encounter is their main community building, where lunch was being prepared and you can relax with some tea or browse the little bookstore (which, incidentally, has some wonderful books, CDs and stationery).
I offered up my $8 donation, removed my shoes, and reverently entered the main meditation room. The main room is beautiful and very peaceful…it’s long and vertical in its orientation, with pure white walls and pristine white carpeting. There is an amazing 5 foot tall statue of Buddha, with midnight blue hair and a gold robe, sitting cross-legged and holding a midnight blue obelisk. He is flanked on either side by half a dozen “smaller deities” I suppose…or attendants? Forgive my ignorance, but I know very little about Buddhism. A nun named Nyangde, who led the lecture today, asked us to picture the three jewels of Buddhism as such: Dharma as the boat, Buddha as the Captain, and Sangha as the crew. So perhaps the other statues were Buddha’s “crew”. 🙂 There were many golden goblets, crystal bowls, flowers and offerings placed everywhere. It looked like the offering bowls and goblets contained different kinds of beer????, rice pudding? (I kid you not) and candies! I think Buddha and I must have same taste! 😉
The meditation today consisted of several 5 minute exercises of sitting straight and quietly, meditating on white light and dissolving external distractions into “black smoke”. We sang some prayers, listened to Nyangde (who I believe was originally Catholic, from Germany and trained as a nurse) read enlightening passages. The main theme today was “a place of retreat”, creating that space within yourself that you can retreat to for calm and strength. The more we habitually tune in to that space and cultivate it, the easier we continue to “find it” and retreat to it to deal with life’s conflicts, as opposed to going on an eating or drinking binge, or yelling at someone.
I decided to stay for the wonderful homemade vegetarian lunch: a savory zucchini/tomato/feta cheese tart in a whole wheat crust, greek salad, tabouleh and iced tea. There were also lovely little cookies for dessert. I spent most of the time chatting with a very young nun who is only in her third year since being ordained. I unfortunately cannot recall her name, but as you can imagine she was so peaceful, content and sincere, a slight little being with the requisite buzzed hair and gold and burgundy attire.
In all, I would describe my experience as beautiful and the act of sharing lunch with a bunch of strangers seemed like the most natural thing in the world. I highly recommend checking out the center to deepen your understanding and practice of meditation. I wanted to blog about the experience from the perspective of someone with very little immersion…hopefully this was interesting in spite of the lack of investigative journalism! 🙂
One thing we cannot deny….there is more anxiety and stress in the world than ever, and meditation is moving from obscure and esoteric to essential. Kadampa is just one more approach to helping you discover your true nature. I am so blessed to live in Los Angeles. Everyone thinks it is so vapid here, when in fact some of the greatest spritual leaders of all time: Geshe-la, Paramhansa Yogananda and Yogi Bhajan have all flocked to LA to open centers. Yogi Bhajan put it best when he said Los Angeles is a wonderful place as “it has no traditions”.