Vessak Day celebration was interesting in the same way as the charnel ground meditations; I felt the larger NYC sangha. This was more so, with a procession for a few blocks with what I learned was the Buddhist flag—five vertical stripes and 5 horizontal. Vajramati says it can be any color. I imagined a Rothko one, with 5 different kinds of black. At one point someone said, “hurry hurry,” to get us all across the street. Someone not associated with the procession said, “slower, slower.” I said, “a perfection of wisdom teaching!”
Inside the Shambhala center, I had the misfortune to sit behind a pillar and not see much. It focused on including the three traditions, Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana with initial chanting and whatnot. There was a play by some children of Sri Lankan heritage from the Theravadan vihara in Staten Island. One of our sangha members had to leave when he hear, “now part 5.” It had many more parts than that. Later the kids came out and sang, which was not on the program. I thought it was cute the way the mothers coached them from the audience to sing louder or move. I liked the talk by a Korean woman who spends 6 weeks in a cave twice a year, except she was anti-therapy.
The event was organized by the Buddhist Counsel of New York City, and it was the 21st such Vessak Day celebration in New York City. I’ve never experienced a FWBO celebration. While I felt there was much ethnic stuff, I felt that above that, there was a similar commitment. One of my coworkers who is Orthodox Jewish said she’d like to confess to me her “unskillfullness”, when I was talking about Buddhist confession and ethics, but I told her that I was not sure we held the same ideals. No matter how different and foreign everyone looked or acted on Vessak day, I felt a kind of kinship that gladdened me.
So these two events have given me a sense of the greater NYC sangha. Not sure if I have to do it again, I won’t disrupt the family to do so, but I do enjoy these events. I imagine my conflict with family and sangha events would be heightened if I lived near a thriving center.
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