Amitofo. Hi, I’m Jesse. I’m 24 years old and am originally from Rhode Island, but I’m currently a student of photojournalism here in California. I’ve been living in the City of 10,000 Buddhas for about two months now, and would like to say a little bit about my experiences here. I came here with very little knowledge about Buddhism; I was just curious about the lifestyle of modern Buddhists. Since I’ve been here, I have been instilled with a tremendous amount of respect for the people who have taken refuge in the Buddha’s teachings.
In a society of violence and selfishness, this peaceful haven dedicated to wisdom, peace and balance is like an oasis in an otherwise barren desert. After spending some time here, I truly believe that the world would benefit greatly if people would listen to the Buddha’s teachings and apply them to their everyday lives. I’m not saying that the entire population of earth should drop everything and take the Five Precepts. All you have to do is slow down and learn to enjoy every experience for what it is while not bringing harm upon anyone else. This is the most valuable lesson that I’ve learned in my stay here; happiness isn’t eternal, neither is suffering, so you’ve just got to relax and enjoy everything equally without unnecessarily troubling yourself with the trifles that we all have to deal with.
Before I came up here, my life was chaotic and disorderly. I wanted to be gratified every moment of every day. I was so impatient that I couldn’t sit still for five minutes without thinking about what I was going to do when I got up. Every moment was spent in anticipation of the next. I would look forward to seeing some friends, I would dread going to work, I would worry about my finances, and so on. I never just lived in the moment, just enjoyed being alive. I had to be experiencing some stimulus in order to feel alive. To me, sitting in a quiet room with no distractions was unthinkable. Now I see that my entire life was made up of distractions, my every thought dedicated to finding something entertaining. But living in the City has shown me how foolish I was.
Here is a community of generally happy people who don’t need a glowing television or a brightly lit bar to amuse themselves. The Sangha need nothing, and many of them are the most contented people I’ve ever met. I am no master of patience now, but I am inspired to work on being mindful every day. And since I started focusing on living in the moment, I have felt a more pronounced sense of wellbeing than ever before. Life is far more peaceful when your attention is focused only on what you are doing. Whether you’re working, attending a religious ceremony, or simply sitting in silence, every experience yields true satisfaction. With a distracted mind you can never be truly satisfied; you can only be momentarily gratified.
In conclusion, I think that the time I’ve spent here will stay with me for the rest of my life, and the lessons I’ve learned will benefit me many times over. I’m not a Buddhist, as I’ve yet to take refuge in his teachings; but I have listened to what he and all the other sages of the past and present have said. I see the wisdom in their words and the value of living a pure, humble, and contented life. I understand that attaining peace isn’t simply the act of claiming to be peaceful; it is a lifelong struggle against both selfish desires and defensive indifference towards a cruel society. But every peaceful day brings you one step closer to enlightenment, and each mindful moment cultivates more joy than a thousand days of distracted indecision.
If everyone, Americans in particular, would take a morsel of Buddhist wisdom and spend time digesting it, I am positive the world would be a better place. We all may not realize our Buddha-natures in this lifetime, but it’s within our power to be truly happy if we are willing to act with sincerity and compassion rather than battling the rest of the world in a pointless struggle for power. The only power worth having is that which comes from within. Whether you vow to take all the precepts or simply make an effort to spread peace rather than hatred, you will find yourself much better off. I came to the City a distracted, selfish person, and I still am in many ways. But seeds of worldly peace and joy have been planted in my mind, and I know that they will soon come to fruition if I simply take the time to cultivate them.