I hope your summer was as memorable as mine and that dukkha didn’t play a large role in it. For me, summertime is when I usually just enjoy staying in Thousand Oaks, where its weather and ambience is so good one doesn’t want to leave it and join all those vacationers who choose summer for their travels. Mostly, I do my traveling in the winter in Asia or South of the Border, or the autumn in Europe or the East Coast of the United States. Last month, however, was an exception; so special I wanted to share it with all of you.
My special summer trip was to the Bay Area of California; it took me to the picturesque village of Sausalito and introduced me to rock sculptor Bill Dan, then to the Fremont’s Sikh gurdwara, and then to the Land of the Medicine Buddha in Santa Cruz, where I met author Alexandra Kennedy, who led the way to the center’s beautiful forest meditation area. All told, not only memorable, but magical, mystical and marvelous.
Sausalito’s Rock Sculptor and Balance Artist
Bill Dan is from Indonesia, one of my favorite countries and cultures, and he has balanced rocks all over the world. He is presently doing it along the waterfront in Sausalito, well known Buddhist author and lecturer Alan Watt’s American hometown just north of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. Wherever it is that Bill Dan does his sculpting and balancing act, he uses the rocks he finds there and the patience he found years ago along his own spiritual path, to balance rocks of all sizes in a manner that can only be described as uncanny. You can learn more about this fascinating man and his talent on YouTube and on several websites bearing his name or the subject “rock sculpture.” In the meantime, here are a couple of photos demonstrating his talent.
Fremont’s Sikh Gurdwara
There are over 200 gurdwaras (temples, shrines or holy places) in India and hundreds more throughout the world. The one I visited is Gurdwara Sahib of Fremont; it is a center for Sikh worship in the San Francisco Bay Area. Sikhs are considered by those who know them or know of them to be among the world’s most trustworthy among religious devotees. They also are among the most generous and compassionate. If ever you are hungry, whether or not you are a Sikh, just show up at a gurdwara and a meal will be yours at any time, 24/7. In many ways Sikh ethics and morals are about the same as those of Buddhists. The religion’s acceptance of samsara and karma (reincarnation or the continuity of existence and the law of cause and effect) is quite similar, too. Next time you are in the vicinity, drop by and take a look; you’ll be impressed. In the meantime, here’s a photo of Fremont’s gurdwara.
Santa Cruz’s Buddhist Temple
My cousin and her husband, Sally and Robb Sals live in Santa Cruz, when they’re not in Hawaii or in their condo on Isla de Mujeres off the coast of Cancun in Mexico. During their summer stay in North California, they invited my Burmese friends and me to visit their fantastic abode in the Santa Cruz Mountains, where they introduced us to the Land of the Medicine Buddha in the nearby forest.
Dedicated to the truths taught by the Buddha and promoted and further taught by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the center, with its beautiful and ornate Temple of the Medicine Buddha, nurtures “healing and the development of a good heart, which includes the cultivation of compassion and loving kindness.” With more than a hundred acres of redwood forest, including peaceful wooded areas for meditation, the center also features an authentic Tibetan prayer wheel and beautiful Tibetan art and holy objects. If you would like more information about the center, please visit www.landofmedicinebuddha.org.
Here are some photos to whet your appetite and entice you to plan a visit to the center. The first photo is of author Alexandra Kennedy meditating among the redwoods, where the Kelly green clover carpets the ground.
There at the Land of the Medicine Buddha, we met author, poet and psychotherapist Alexandra Kennedy, a fascinating Buddhist, who devotes many hours daily to the maintenance and welfare of the center. Her most recent book, Offerings at the Edge, contains some truly wonderful and creative impressions in poetry, the likes of which are rare indeed, as well as insightful, beautiful and full of love and wisdom. An example, this opening except from her Afternoon Walk on Prescott Road:
The wind greets me first,
With whispers in the listening forest.
Then the voices of the stream,
The creaking of growing trees,
The raucous call of the jay -
Sounds that dance tender shoots
From the silent ground.
My thanks to my dear Burmese friends, Jason Hu, who took the photos in this blog, to his expecting wife Sandar (little Emily is due early next month), and to Jason’s parents, Lili and UK, for all the courtesies extended during this memorable trip; to my dear cousin, Sally, and her husband Robb, for the introduction to the enchanting forest area of Santa Cruz and the remarkable author, Alexandra Kennedy; to the members of Fremont’s Sikh center, who gave us a tour of their beautiful gurdwara, explained to us the basic principles of the Sikh religion, and treated us to a most delicious lunch; and to new friend Bill Dan, to whom we are so grateful for sharing with us and the by passers his unique and awesome ability to do what is, or at least seems to be, impossible. Thanks to all of you for making my summer of ’09 unforgettable.