I was originally going to have a ham sandwich and a movie on Thanksgiving.
Then I got an invitation to the Buddhist Thanksgiving ceremony in the KDK Temple in San Francisco.
I am trying to cut down on holiday eating, but that does not seem to be in the cards.
I understood that the prayers would start at 9 and go until 12, after which we were to be treated with a vegetarian meal. Then I got there at 11.45 only to find that the prayers and teachings were running late. I got a chair by the window, had served to me a cup of tea with milk, and a cookie, and proceeded to sight read a chant in Tibetan.
After about 20 minutes of reading the words and droning on, I could pronounce them pretty well, and since there was not really a melody could stay with the expert chanters.
It was a mixed group, with women in traditional dress of Tibet, and Caucasian men and women in the Buddhist robes and colors.
My son, who had been through a three year retreat, was in charge of ringing the bell, or chimes to signal the start and end of chants, and was addressed by the people there as Lama Choiring not his given name. This is because they all respect him as a pillar of the organization, being the secretary to the leader and computer guru.
I was very interested to see the dynamics of the group as they sat and chanted and listened to the Rinpoche give his lectures on “mindfulness”, and compassion.
The women served the tea throughout, and had arranged the food on a table in front of an altar. When the time finally came to share the food, one woman served up the meal in a blue bowl to the leader who remained seated on his elevated “throne”. The turkey, being an animal that had been slaughtered for the occasion was delegated to the kitchen, and if one wanted a slice one went out behind the curtain to fill one’s plate.
When religions dictate the food and drink of the parishioners, there is always controversy.
There is evidence that eating only vegetables is not the healthiest of life choices, as can be seen by looking at the stunted stature of many Asian populations.
It may be that a vegetarian diet with vitamins and fish added could counteract the national tendency to obesity, but I see the restrictions upon any food in a religious context to be just another form of control.
After all our study of food and nutrition, we should be able to make an informed choice on what we eat and drink, and not bow down to those who know nothing of our personal conditions.