I have come to have an incredible respect and appreciation for the variety in Buddhist practice, something I feel comfortable describing as an element of vibrant color. It seems there are so many colors of Buddhism, from the quiet and reflective Theravada practice to the seemingly less orderly and amazingly mystic Tibetan form. Each seems to display its own splendid character, and it is hardly fitting for me to deny my interest in seeing more of it for myself.
The last two Sunday’s have taught me a lot in this respect as a result of my attendance at a Vietnamese Buddhist temple about 20 minutes from my home. In exploring this new experience, I’m not only learning another format for chanting/prayers but dabbling in yet another language.
As some may recall, I have been practicing chanting in Pali for a couple of months now and can recite from memory and understand about 30 minutes worth of chanting, assuming the speaker is not going through them too quickly or speaking with an accent I’m not familiar with. For an independent study project with minimal time invested, I feel like there is a lot of progress.
So now I’m trying to dig up resources on learning some Vietnamese, and I’m hopeful to get a copy of the chanting book used at the Temple so that I can start learning the pronunciations and properly translating the text because, quite frankly, there don’t appear to be a lot of Vietnamese-to-English sources available — it looks like I’m going to be doing a lot more research on my own.
And of course, all of this goes to the source of my own colorful practice, one that is continually taking on a lot of different cultural bits and sorting through them. It is an amazing process, and fun really — it is not like “work” but it can be more challenging. Ha!
This particular Temple has adopted some Pure Land practices, which I’m not very familiar with and have only now started to read about, and seems to follow the Mahayana tradition in general. Readers may recall that I’ve spent most of the last year focusing on the Theravada school — and I’ve come to realize that this may be because, aside from Tibetan, the Theravada is the most accessible to me when considering the language barriers I’m coming across in studying Mahayana. There are a number of American and Australian monks practicing Theravada and they are particularly active online, producing all manner of Pali-to-English chanting literature and Dhamma talks on Youtube, but my experience so far with Mahayana monastics and texts is rather well lacking.
In other words, I think this coming year will be spent focusing more on the Mahayana traditions. This is not because I’m dissatisfied with Theravada, mind you, but simply because it is interesting, and because I can. Assuming I continue regular attendance with this Temple, it only seems fitting that I expand my knowledge in this way, and it really doesn’t change anything I do from day to day.
I will continue to share my thoughts and progress along the path as I continue to learn, and I doubt anyone reading will really notice that an idea of mine has an origin from one school or the other — unless I state it as such.
Thank you all for reading, friends. While you may not realize it, your comments here have all been encouraging and helpful as I mature on the path, and I really hope that my posts have somehow benefited you as well.
Be well and at peace, and I will write again soon.