I am many things, but I am not a Buddhist. Still, every so often the secret Buddhist in my soul demands to be fed: lighting a little incense, placing a flower in a bowl like an offering, sweeping a spider out the door (instead of squishing it), or taking a day trip to the Chuang Yen Monastery in Carmel, NY.
As Yogi Bera famously said, “It’s like deja vu all over again.” I go to the Monastery and something in my heart sighs, “Ahhhhhh.” I feel like I have returned home and, despite the constant chaos of ongoing construction, it is as if the temple has been there a thousand years. My soul feels old in the most wonderful way, and I feel a connection to every Buddhist who has ever lived and to all my possible Buddhist past lives.
I meditate in the grand room with 10,000 Buddhas, I go through the gift shop and fortify myself with more incense for the months long drought til the next time I can visit, and I lament the lack of a vegetarian meal from the cafeteria that has never been open in all the times I’ve been there. Still, I am satisfied. I walk the muddy loop of pathway that has been incompletely paved for the last seven years, past the beautiful statue of Chuang Yen, and I breathe in the scent of flowers as I watch the birds fly over the pond. And the Buddhist in my soul knows it is perfect.