Dhammakaya international meditation center, azusa, ca
Back Row (Left to Right):Stacy Gonzalez, Joe Sepulveda, Brenda Landeros, Jennifer Garant. Front Row (Left to Right): Guest, Azalea Aragundi, Vicky Guzman.
Dhammakaya means body of reality and one of the volunteers at the center said that this practice was discovered by Venerable Chao Khun Phra Mongkol-Thepmuni and rediscovered by Luang Pu Wat Paknam in the 1900’s after this practice was not being taught for over 400 years after the death of Buddha. This practice is very popular in Thailand and has been passed on and now practiced globally.
From the moment a child is born, a monk begins his journey first as a novice. A novice does not become a monk until the age of 20, and are refrained from interacting with any foul play activities such as sexual intercourse, drugs, alcohol, and are also not allowed to have a relationship, get married or eat dinner. Monks do not eat dinner for the purpose that making meals take too much time away from study, which they are advised to do as much as possible throughout the day. Instead, monks go into their fellow neighborhoods and villages to obtain food using a bowl. In respect to the individuals giving the monks nourishment, they are required to eat all the food given to them in the bowl. Not doing so is considered rude. Monks also wear the orange attire in the belief of doing so, they will scare away animals. Monks engage in the practice of eating fresh whole foods and fruits, keeping their bodies pure and rich.
The Buddhist culture believe in engaging five of the most important precepts, which monks also practice as well. Some go as far as doing 200! 1. The first precept implies the rights of all living beings to protect and preserve their life. It also implies the impotence of love and compassion for all. 2. The second precept signifies an individual’s rights for the possession as well as the protection of wealth rightly acquired. It also stresses the importance of right livelihood. 3. The third precept, not to indulge in sexual misconduct, teaches one to respect one’s own spouse as well as those of others, including by extension, all things that are near and dear to them. It is, moreover intended to inculcate in man self restraint and a sense of social propriety. 4. The fourth aims at preserving man’s credibility, upon which rests his honor, dignity, and trustworthiness. It makes man honest and healthy. 5. The last precept intends to keep man healthy physically, mentally, and morally. It helps him to maintain his sense of responsibility in thought and action – something not possible when one is under the spell of drinks or drugs. When we asked a monk which precept was most important, he replied, “Number five”.
Meditation is used to help the body, mind and soul relax. There is a certain form one must perform in order to achieve maximum relaxation. You must shut your body off, focus on your center and remember all the seven bases of your body.
These are photos of the meditation rooms where followers of the Buddhist culture and monks gather to have service, ceremonies and embrace relaxation. We were privileged to be allowed to obtain photos of such historical meaning and beauty.
The Following Sociological Terms will be used from our lecture notes, Martian’s Guide, and The Practical Skeptic Guide: Culture Shock: “When people enter into a new cultural context, they sometimes become overwhelmed or confused.” (The Martian’s Guide, Chapter 3) Culture: “The conditions and realities resulting from all aspects of human beliefs, creativity, thoughts, institutions, norms, and traditions. These conditions are passed down from generation to generation.” (The Martian’s Guide, Chapter 3) Values: “Refer to the principles, standards, or qualities considered worthwhile or desirable by a culture or group.” (The Martian’s Guide, Chapter 3) Subculture: “A smaller group within a culture that has its own values, beliefs, or shared goals that are distinct from those of the larger society.” (The Martian’s Guide, Chapter 3) Socialization: “Lifelong process by which people acquire cultural competency and through which society perpetuates the fundamental nature of existing social structures and institutions.” (McIntyre, 2006, p. 144) Non-Material Culture: “Refers to those aspects of culture we cannot accesss directly with our sense.” (The Martian’s Guide, Chapter 3) Social Norms: “ The rules that a group uses for appropriate and inappropriate values, beliefs, attituteds and behaviors.” (www.dictionary.com) Beliefs: “Mental acceptance of and conviction in the truth, actuality, or validity of something.” (www.dictionary.com)
While visiting the Dhammaka International Meditation in Azusa with my group I was expecting to experience Culture shock: Extreme discomfort experienced by individuals encountering a new culture that challenges their worldviews (McIntyre, 2006, p. 106) however, Ms. Vee, a volunteer at the meditation center, was very welcoming and inviting. She explained the Dhammaka (Buddhism) Culture: The set of ideas and things handed down from generation to generation in a particular group or society; culture is both a product of people’s actions and a constraint on their actions (McIntyre, 2006, p. 95) to us, what we could expect while visiting. We were able to participate in the Mediation class, which was very relaxing, as well as the food offering ceremony to the monks. We were afforded the opportunity to join the monks, members and guest for lunch. Before the meditation class began we were greeted by Ms. Vee who explained to us to process of becoming a monk, the Values: Abstract ideas about what is good and what is bad; shared by people in a society (McIntyre, 2006, pp. 101-103) of the Buddhist religion, the beliefs behind meditation and the Subculture: A group of people who’s shared specialized values, norms, beliefs, or use of material culture sets them apart from other people in society (McIntyre, 2006), within the Dhammaka society, the requirements or precepts in becoming a monk as well as the precepts of Buddhist. At the beginning of the mediation class we were educated about the 5 precepts of the Buddhist religion, instructed on how to focus our energy and clear our mind. I have never meditated or participated in a yoga class, I found this experience to be very relaxing, energizing and found a new respect for the power of serenity. We were allotted the opportunity to listen to regular attendee’s experiences and methods of meditation. I found the experience to be informative as well as relaxing. I was offered the opportunity to participate in a food offering ceremony, to simulate the food offerings that the monks take place in throughout their village. This was a new experience for me. Following the food offering, we were invited to join the monks and members for lunch. The Socialization: Lifelong process by which people acquire cultural competency and through which society perpetuates the fundamental nature of existing social structures and institutions (McIntyre, 2006, p. 144) that takes place among the monks was intriguing. My overall experience was very relaxing, informative, welcoming and eye opening. I was impressed by how welcoming everybody was, instructing us of the do’s and don’ts, allowing us to take apart of the sacred ceremonies, informing us of the Dhammaka believes. I truly enjoyed every moment of the experience and I am thankful for the opportunity to broaden my beliefs (written by Brenda Landeros)
Being in Dhammakaya Int. Center was a place of positive vibes. I felt like a stranger in a strange land in a non-material culture. Such as why do Monks wear only orange? Was belief to protect them from wild animals. As well as the color of choices in the building. Its how strong the belief they have that over powers your senses and lets you know its there. Such as the Meditation, a strong belief of inner peace and being one with the self. I had brought my daughter with me to this field trip and they treated us so respectfully and even took care of her. I felt so blessed and they do have kindness and inner peace in them. Made me realize how strong their belief was and it showed in the outside as well. Me and my daughter had an amazing experience and even participated in their traditions. (written by Azalea Aragundi)
When I attended the Dhammakaya International Mediation Center (DIMC) it was quite an experience. As I arrived I saw some doors that looked like hotel rooms; next to one another. There were three people around and they were wearing all white. As other peers arrived they quickly came and greeted them. One thing I mainly noticed was that they were friendly. While I was walking up to the entrance there was a gardener; he immediately greeted me. He said hello with a big smile. I walked up to the main entrance and seen a rack specified for shoes. I thought to myself I hope I don’t have to take my shoes off. Sure enough when the lady came out; she said please take off your shoes. I did not have any socks on, so I was extremely embarrassed. When I walked in the carpet was nice and fluffy with a lot of padding. Everything was white because it was a calm relaxing color. That was the main representation of the room, was to claim peace and joy. My overall feeling of this culture was not as culture shock as I thought I would be. I honestly had so many other ethnocentrism feelings about it. But, it was nothing as I expected it to be. It reminded me of my semi religion beliefs. As a Catholic a priest cannot be married, have a girlfriend, or kids. Monks roles in life are a little more restricted in socialization. They are more isolated than others. They are not allowed to watch movies, play video games, and basically have an average person’s life. Although they are not in Thailand anymore they still follow their cultures beliefs. Their main focus is to meditate. I really enjoyed the meditation session. At the beginning I had an urge of anxiety. Than as he was leading us I started to feel relaxed and sleepy. I wasn’t sure if it was because I was over exhausted, but I felt like I was going to fall off of my chair. As it progressed it felt smoothing I couldn’t get my thoughts to the center which they claim is the stomach. But I did feel relaxed my body was heavy. When we were finished he asked if we felt the mediation long or short. If we felt it short we did it right; if it was long we had more practice to do. I really enjoyed the visitation and participation I played in their system. I would strongly recommend friends and family to visit. (written by Vicky Guzman)
When I first arrived to the Dhammakaya Meditation Center, I was completely lost and confused. I wasnt sure where the entrance was located or who to speak too. My best friend was kind enough to accompany me along the trip. We were both in shock but at the same time amazed by how beautiful the scenery was. The location looked just like a mini village on top of a mountain. There were clouds embedded at the top, a cold breeze coming in and buildings surrounded the perimeter. My best friend had made a comment saying it looked a lot like a rehabilitation center, and come to find out it use to be. When we entered inside one of the main corridors, we were greeted by a very friendly woman, whose name I was unfortunate not to obtain. She offered us coffee, snacks and free DVDs and pamphlets to help ourselves. We were then greeted by Ms. Vee who was going to be our tour guide for the day. As we waited for the rest of the group, we were asked to take our shoes off since it is considered rude and dirty to walk around such a professional and pure sanction where monks live in. We were more than happy to do so but I kept telling my friend I feel rude and naked walking around without shoes. I grew up in a household where my mother made us wear shoes inside our home and others, so already I was experiencing some culture shock; “When people enter into a new cultural context, they sometimes become overwhelmed or confused.” (The Martian’s Guide, Chapter 3) . Ms. Vee went on to escort us around the premises and sat us around to explain the story of the Dhammakaya. She also answered many questions we had about the culture like "Why do monks wear orange?" or "How does one become a monk?" She was very polite and informative and because of her, we had a very enjoyable trip. My favorite part of the trip was the meditation class. We were taken into a small room where a monk was seated in front of us guiding us along the meditation. He explained the importance of meditation and the correct way of doing it. The meditation lasted about 45 minutes but felt much shorter than that. This is an experience I will never forget because for the first time in a very long time I felt a sense of peace and relaxation. I would recommend anyone who is interested to go to this location. It was by far the best choice in my personal opinion and I plan on returning some time again. (written by Stacy Gonzalez)
As I was in the room for the meditation, they provided a clear crystal ball to help bring an image for the meditation process. The monk said that it symbolizes clarity and pureness to bring upon your inner self. The purpose of this meditation practice is to meditate to bring inner peace to oneself and by doing this it will bring world peace and it is also believed that it was the original Buddha teachings. If you are just starting to meditate, you could also visualize this crystal ball going up into your nose and into your mind and into your inner being which is located at the top of your stomach, which is two finger widths above your naval. Their body language is positioned with their back straight, sitting Indian style or in a chair with legs apart and hands apart. One method of the meditation is to imagine 7 different positions in your body of where you are to have this invisible sphere or “crystal ball” enter and position itself in position 7 which is considered to be your inner being (two inches above the naval) and meditation stage. As they are finished meditating they chant a mantra, “soha” or “padme” while having their hands together in what Christian and Catholic religions call prayer hands. This is a type of body language also used while offering food to the monks. (written by Jennifer Garant)
During my visit to the Meditation center, I witnessed a ceremony of worship. A large group of people were praising there lord Buddha by chanting various mantras, in there native language Thai. There was over 40 people chanting and clapping, and lifting there hands. This was there social norm & beliefs as a group of people by doing such acts of worship, they were bringing peace to there surrounding and honoring there lord. As me being a outsider, I didn’t understand there language our culture and choose not to participate in there lifting hands. (written by Joe Sepulveda)
Each member was responsible for writing down their own personal experience about the trip, as well as integrating the sociological terms within our experience. We all shared photos and video of what we believed would depict the best images of our trip. Brenda Landeros, Azalea Aragundi and Stacy Gonzalez were responsible for setting meeting locations, choosing the location, times and dates for weekly group updates, and group project deadlines. Vicky Guzman, Joe Sepulveda and Jennifer Garant were responsible for obtaining information about the center, obtaining photos and video. All the group members were responsible for networking with others around the mediation center to give each other feedback and a better understanding about the cultural background. Overall, every group member did a great job in keeping up with each other via email, text messaging and writing forums in order to make sure that every member was up to date on what was going on. Brenda Landeros, Jennifer Garant and Azalea Aragundi participated in the food offering ceremony at the Dhammakaya Meditation Center, and Stacy Gonzalez was responsible for putting the Power Point together. No one did more or less work than the others and we all spread out the work evenly.
Food we got to enjoy… For FREE! We werent ready
As many of us entered the center, we were welcomed by a wonderful women, who took the day out to give us a tour around the meditation center. She gave us lecture and information guides, as well as booklets and cd’s so that we could better understand the Buddhist culture. Meet Ms. Vee! She was extremely helpful and we all felt very lucky to have her by our side throughout this cultural journey. (written by Stacy Gonzalez)
The monks believe that if you save an animal from being killed and releasing it back to nature, that the Kama will reward you with health and prosperity. The Kama is best known as karma, what goes around comes around. Every second Sunday of the month, the temple buys catfish and releases it into a pond or lake and this symbolizes saving a life and you are given a life or positive energy. They also believed that this would relieve your loved ones from suffering. (written by group member Jennifer Grant)
A food offering was held after meditation class. The food offering is an offering to the monks. We replicated an example of what monks do when they are offered food from the people in the village. We were blessed enough to be asked if any of us wanted to be a part of the ceremony. A special thanks to our group members Jennifer Garant, Brenda Landeros and Azalea Aragundi for participating. (written by Stacy Gonzalez)
As I participated in the food offering for the monks, they were recreating an old ritual as used in the Buddhist practices. What they do is sit around and the monks go around this circle and collect the food from those around. Each food item that is given to the monk has to be blessed by the person giving it and the gesture is the prayer hands for each item that is given. All the food that is given to them has to be eaten all so they don’t eat dinner because they eat all that food that is given to them in the offering and they also cannot eat if the food is not given to them. So the monks fully depend on the people to feed them. Although this was what the offering used to be, the offering now is the people only giving the dry food which symbolized the cooked food that used to be offered to the monks years ago. After the food items are given to the monks by the people, the chant the mantra again, “soha” or “padme”. (written by group member Jennifer Garant)
There was 3 different symbols that were of significance to the Buddhism religion, their master Luang Phor, the crystal ball and the gold statue. Luang Phor was a man who was born in the 1800’s and at the age of 22 became a monk, and went on to teach Buddhism to the masses and the art of meditation. The crystal ball is a symbol used as a focal point when trying to reach the depths of meditation. As we were explained that we must train the mind to gain more conciseness. The gold statue stands for the core mediation stance, the heart of the lower stomach. (Slide written by Joe Sepulveda)
DearProfessor Lynn Navarette, we all just want to say thank you for embedding this opportunity for us to learn something new. As a group we all enjoyed this amazing opportunity and we hope you enjoyed our work! In conclusion, this was an adventure none of us will soon forget.