Monday, June 16, 2008

Tibet, Buddhism, Kung Fu Pandas, and Other Weekend Stuff

This past weekend took on a very Asian theme for us at casa de pirate, though it was not planned as such.

On Saturday afternoon, One Ring and I went to see a matinee of Kung Fu Panda. I was very pleasantly surprised at the quality and message of the film. Jack Black's voice work for the main character was hilarious, although I was a tad disappointed that Jackie Chan (the voice of Monkey) didn't have a larger role. The best part, I thought, was the very opening, where Po the Panda is having a very teenager-like dream of being such a great kung fu practitioner that his enemies "are blinded by the brilliant glare of his awesomeness!" Lord knows I can remember having a dream or two like that!

Usually I'm immune to such things, but watching the movie actually made me more excited to be studying kung fu. I've been feeling a little blase about the whole thing, in part because I discovered recently that the praying mantis style that my current school teaches is different from the praying mantis style that my old school taught. It's an issue of Northern vs. Southern Chinese styles, where the Northern school mimics more of the arm motions of the animal. The Southern school seems more to resemble Wing Chun (Bruce Lee's style before he created Jeet Kune Do). Silly, I know, but I really got into the Northern school back in the day.

Anyway, watching the movie got me a little enthused about learning this school's system, so I was gearing up for class on Sunday. Unfortunately, my instructor called and said that, due to the Father's Day holiday, we weren't having class. So my enthusiasm will have to wait another week.

Sunday morning, however, was pretty interesting, as I was finally able to visit the Tibetan Buddhist center in Nashville! Very neat. And, I might add, very confusing. Even though I've been studying Zen for years, and have read quite a bit about various Buddhist beliefs, I was still pretty lost. Thank goodness they had a book - much like a hymnbook - that had all the chants printed out, as well as a bulletin that said what was going to happen then. By the end of the period (service?), I was keeping up. I even bought a book written by the two monks who fled from Tibet back during the Chinese invasion (okay, China says they already owned Tibet, while many Tibetans say that they were pretty much independent - as with most things, it depends on who you ask!) in 1959. There's a bookstore attached to the meditation center, so I was hooked. When it comes to bookstores, I'm a junkie! Anyway, here's the book I bought.

Like I said, it was an enjoyable experience. Will I make it part of my regular religious practice? Maybe. Will I convert? I told One Ring that were it not for my current work as a chaplain and my long standing ties with the UCC, I might consider it. But, by and large, there's no need. Buddhism is a non-theistic philosophy / religion, and Christianity is theistic. As such there isn't really a conflict, despite what my more conservative members of the faith say. That's not to say that I don't think about it, when I hear of crazy church people or the rants of members of my own tradition. For now, though, I read, I meditate, and I try to muddle through my own theological dilemmas in order to find out what is real and true in the universe (assuming that anything in the universe is "real" and "true"!).

Oh, and I mowed the lawn, too! My father-in-law is coming into town with a friend of his in order to help us spruce up our yard. I'm pushing for a bamboo grove in a corner of our backyard, but I don't think I'm going to get it! If you talk to One Ring, put in a word for it, will ya? Thanks. : )


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