Visit to The Buddhist Temple
Part of a series about My Faith Journey.
On January 29th, 2017 I visited the Salt Lake Buddhist Temple for their Sunday services. Ever since my loss of faith / disaffection from Mormonism in Spring of 2016, I've been "shopping around", getting a taste of various other religious services. I've always been interested in Buddhism, so I thought I'd give this a try.
The Buddhist temple in downtown Salt Lake is actually an old LDS chapel that has been remodeled. The area in front has been raised and holds some seats, some elaborate decorations, and a gold-colored statue of the Buddha.
I took a seat on an all-too-familiar pew and looked at the faces of the congregation. I'd say it was about 50/50 American/Japanese. I started looking at the songbook / servicebook when an older Japanese woman saw me sitting there, identified me as a visitor, and invited me to perform the traditional incense ritual, which involves putting some incense in a burning censer and bowing to the statue of the Buddha.
The service was conducted by an 11 year old boy (my best guess on his age). He did a very capable job and only needed a little prompting. The songs were sung in English, but the chanting was done in Japanese (which represented the mixed American/Japanese congregation). The pronunciation for the Japanese characters was written out in English so English-speakers could follow along.
Then the time came for announcements. A Boy Scout stood up and said that for his Eagle project, he would build a stone bench in the garden area outside the temple. He said it was his way of paying the temple back for the great community and god teachings he's learned there. A lady announced that the spaghetti & bingo luncheon would be today. I smiled, thinking that this could've been an announcement in any protestant church.
The priest-equivalent then gave a talk. He prefixed it by describing various qualities of the Buddha: he was virtuous, generous, never harmed anyone, etc. They sounded like qualities I've heard attributed to Jesus. He acknowledged that there are people in the congregation with various beliefs (e.g. some who believe in the metaphysical aspects of Buddhism, and atheists/agnostics who just like the secular aspects of Buddhism). He proceeded to give a talk that was somewhat politically-charged. I guess that's to be expected because Trump was just inaugurated, but I would've liked to hear something a little more... transcendent. That said, I can understand him being concerned about looking after the Japanese(-American) minority group members in his community.
We had a closing song (in English). All in all, it was a pretty compact service, weighing in at 45 minutes.