Last weekend I went to a celebration of the birth of Buddha up at the peace pagoda deep in the woods of Leverett. I admit I don't know much about Buddhism but it is always worthwhile to check out new things, especially on a beautiful spring day in a woodland setting. We parked down by the road and joined the other pilgrims climbing to the temple.
I do recall reading that Buddhists advocate rejecting the material world, something which I learned to do not through Buddhism but through crack cocaine. If you want to become free of all your possessions just get hooked on crack. I couldn't help but notice the year and model of the cars in the parking lot, many of which didn't seem like the possessions of people rejecting the material world. However I resolved to put aside for once my usual cynicism and just go with the flow.
I didn't know how to dress to attend the birthday party of a deity, but I know when I see pictures of Buddha I often see him laughing. I have to say that's something the Buddhists have over the Christians, as Jesus is rarely shown in a pose suggesting he liked to laugh. Anyway I settled on wearing an old shirt I bought sometime in the 1980's at a Grateful Dead show at the Springfield Civic Center showing a laughing Sun. I figured it was probably the sort of garment Buddha would approve of.
Climbing at last to the site of the temple I was very impressed to see such a structure rising in the middle of the New England wilderness.
We arrived right in time, just as the monks were emerging to take the stage.
I was surprised by how many people there I recognized from around the Valley, including one pilgrim who told me that she and her friends had dropped LSD in the van on the way to Leverett. I kept glancing over at her now and then, where she was standing with others like herself with starch in their grins throughout the entire ceremony. They seemed to be enjoying it all immensely.
I admit I'd considered the possibility that I might be bored by the birthday ceremony, but in fact I found it quite interesting. Some of it was on the strange side, like their scripture about Buddha's birth where they said he could walk and talk immediately upon emerging from the womb. But then is that really much more weirdly improbable than Jesus walking on the water?
At one point in the ceremony people were invited to come up and pour sweet tea over the head of a little statue of Buddha. I hadn't intended to participate, but someone told me this was an act that could result in good fortune. So since I'm always in need of all the good luck I can get, I went up and bathed the Buddha in tea.
There was a heavy 60's vibe to the scene, including some singing of folks tunes written by artists like Pete Seeger.
There was also an organic lunch afterward with fantastic food for the price of free. I must admit I enjoyed the whole experience, and would certainly go again next year. That Buddha sure knows how to throw a birthday party!
Meanwhile back in Northampton this new restaurant The Hinge is a big hit.
Let's check out the new coffeehouse The Foundry.
It's cool, with big windows for people watching.