December 14, 2009

Church Experiment #50: Buddhist Dharma Center

My back hurts. Lots of uncomfortable sitting during a Buddhist service. But more on my sitting problems in a moment.

I have been interested in Buddhism for a long time. One, many experts believe Jesus was heavily influenced by Buddhist practices and traditions. Two, meditation has always intrigued me. I have a hard time shutting my brain off; meditation could be the answer to my overactive mind. Finally, Richard Gere is dreamy.

An unfamiliar context is always nerve-racking because I have no idea what to expect. Even if a Christian church is out of my comfort zone, I still understand most of the rituals. Not so at a Buddhist Temple.

Walking into the Buddhist Dharma Center (, I quickly realized the gathering would be small. Approximately fifteen people were in attendance. No one really greeted me, but someone did suggest I put on a nametag. Someone else handed me a sheet of paper that included that morning’s chants. Everyone had to take their shoes off before entering the meditation room. Cushions were scattered throughout the room and there was a small “altar” near the back wall.

To finish reading about this experience or any of the reflections from my 52 visits, please purchase the full book here.


PJWB said...

Same message:
Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

As always, an interesting post!

Sandy Maudlin said...

Every Monday morning I look forward to your experiment commentary. Any chance you'll be doing another 52 weeker or similar next year? Thanks so much for your insight, your transparency, and your openness to new and sometimes uncomfortable situations and ideas. You are valued highly, I'm sure, by your students and those that know you. Have a great holiday season.

Lydia said...


I am so glad that you are seeing God, not as the guy with a stick ready to bang you on the head, but as the one who loves you most.

I know he loves us as we are. He made us. But I also know He helps me improve, just like the leader at the temple showed you a better way to sit. I see God's corrections as a better way to live, not a way to make me feel bad.

Christian said...

The late Joseph Cardinal Bernardin used to dedicate the first hour of his day to prayer, meditation and silence. I think that is a worthy exercise in spirituality.

Daniel Kalbach said...


Congratulations on (almost) completing your journey. I hope the realities surpassed your expectations.

And are you serious about locking people out of church?

Pirate Wife said...

You make me think and this is a very good thing. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

And I hear you about locking the doors!

samarahuel said...

As a new mom, I'm thankful that my church does not lock the doors. I get up at 6 to feed the baby, get myself and him ready, and drive over an hour to be at church which starts at 9:30, though most Sundays we miss at least a third of the service. I'm lucky if I get to hear 15 minutes of the sermon before I have to duck out to feed the baby again (as you made me aware that doing so in church might offend someone). In case you're keeping track, the equation usually ends up looking something like this: 5 hours of sleep + 3 hours of driving = 15 minutes of spiritual nourishment. Sundays can be very discouraging. Without the smiles that greet me as I quietly take my seat, as if to say, "We're glad you're here!" I would probably give up entirely.

Michelle said...

Steve, give us tips on how to sit during meditation. Inquiring minds want to know.

A Modern Ancient said...

this is in no way intended to be a "jerky" comment but...

i am wondering if there are churches closer to home for you to attend? it would cut out a lot of the driving. i know that we all become attached to "our" church, but, in the end, it's about gathering with fellow believers to celebrate God's gift to us.

just asking the question. i'm sure you've thought about it.

samarahuel said...

Modern Ancient,
Thanks for your comment; I didn't find it "jerky" at all. I live in Germany, and sadly, good churches are hard to come by here. My husband and I searched for over a year before finding this one. We love it, it's definitely worth the drive, but it certainly would be nice if there were someplace closer! We have a small group Bible study with about 4 other families that also live in our area and make the drive each week, and we/the church are in the very early stages of making our study into a church plant. Even though all of us are living here for a relatively short time, I like the idea that we can help get something going for others who will come after us, so they don't have to go through the search and/or long commute that we did. We would greatly appreciate your prayers!

Anonymous said...

I stumbled onto your blog yesterday afternoon and have spent a good chunk of last night and today reading all the posts.
Very very interesting project and I'm looking forward to Monday so I can read what's next. So much of what you've written has resonated with me at different points in my life. I hope that this project is going to be in book form at some point, because there are quite a few people I know that would enjoy it (and benefit from it).

Funny how connections can work out. I stumbled onto your blog through Joe Boyd's blog, and you used to go to VCC. Strange eh?


R said...

Buddhism is close to my heart. I discovered it while studying suffering and it's root cause. Why I did that is a long story. Nevertheless, meditation is a wonderful practice. It brings a great calmness to the soul and an ability to be deeply honest with one's self about what our true motivations are. It doesn't allow us to lay blame for who we have and are becoming.

Probably the one thing I love most about Buddhism is that you are pointed in the way but, ultimately the experience is yours. No one tells you God is this or that, or reality is this or that. Therefore, the experience that one has is of a God who is far more generous and far bigger than we can find the words to describe. That alone brings great peace into the human spirit. Not to mention a surrender.

rhymeswithplague said...

Hi Steve,

Yeah, Richard Gere is dreamy and all that, but Patrick Whatzisname, the actor who played Bobby Ewing on Dallas, was a practicing Buddhist and still both of his parents were murdered in their home in Montana. Why do I bring that up? I haven't the slightest idea. Maybe to point out that Buddhism or any other "religion" ain't the answer to life's perplexing problems.

Which "experts" believe Jesus was heavily influenced by Buddhist practices and traditions? Name four so that I can avoid their books.

"In all my nearly thirty-three years..." struck a chord with me because on my 33rd birthday I cried off and on all day long because that was the age my Savior died for me, and what had I done for Him? In the 35 years since then, I have had my ups and downs, my good days and my bad days, my successes and my failures, but I'm still following after God in my own imperfect, stumbling way, hopefully loving others a little better and hopefully hearing the Holy Spirit's voice a little clearer and responding to it a little more often. I hope you will be able to say something similar when you are 68.

Bob Brague

Steve Fuller said...


You are an interesting gentleman. Thanks for the comments.