Editor’s Note: Dustin Saunders is currently taking RELG 210 World Religions taught by Dr. Suzanne Henderson. For the class, students must attend worship services of religious traditions different from their own. The Religion in Charlotte series of commentaries chronicles his experiences.
Buddhists promise a release from suffering, a more centered consciousness and clearer focus on the journey to attaining enlightenment by freeing oneself from attachment and regular practice of meditation.
That is exactly what the Vajradhara Buddhist Center delivered at its Prayers for World Peace ceremony.
The atmosphere was relaxed and serene as attendees entered the small room in which the center’s services and classes are held. Shining golden images of Buddhas seemed to smile at the offerings, such as glasses of water, incense and tea before them. Kelsang Vajara, an ordained monk of the New Kadampa tradition and teacher at the center, warmly greeted everyone as they entered.
As the prayers began, the parallels between many Western religions and the Buddhist tradition quickly became evident. Though often the subject of stereotypes like bald Asian monks doing nothing but meditation while chanting “ohm,” the prayers’ objective was meaningful and sincere in its entreaty to cherish all living beings and to value them as teachers and to secure their happiness at all costs.
This, Vajara said, is the key to good karma, inner contentment and cultivating positive relationships. And he was right.
The application of the principles learned at the service and emulation of the humble monk has resulted in improved relations with others. In placing others’ satisfaction before my own and in doing little acts of kindness, combined with mindfulness meditation accompanying my usual prayer, the level of anxiety and stress—suffering—has significantly decreased.
Buddhism is compatible with, and even complementary to, most Western traditions, like Christianity. Though in its fullness, the philosophy includes belief in karma, reincarnation, gods and demigods, a majority of Buddhist practice can be included in anyone’s life to a positive end.