Today is a day of the week that many religions around the world deem sacred or worthy of a special kind of observance amidst the chaos of our otherwise bustling lives—in other words, it’s a Sunday.
I was born and raised a Buddhist, the religion that is predominant in our sweet Sri Lanka. But I didn’t grow up going to temple on a regular basis, and certainly not every Sunday. While it’s true that Richmond, Va has few temples to boast of, mostly I think that our family’s lack of religious regularity is a testament to the fact that religion for me and my family has never really had a schedule. And gcals and sticky notes aside, I like to think that this is the way I live my life, too–well, for the most part :) Buddhism is a “go-with-the-flow” religion I would often tell my friends when I was younger; you just have to be a good person. Turns out that most religions believe that. They would grin in a “yeahh, right” sort of way. But I also felt responsible for portraying this anomaly of a religion as honestly as I could to friends who had most likely only ever met one Buddhist in their lives. To my five-year-old self, this seemed like a pretty good way of going about it.
I may not know all of the Pali words of the ancient text, but even if I am not convinced entirely of the ritual of saying them , I believe wholeheartedly in their purpose. They grant solace. Familiarity. Comfort. Peace of mind. Sitting next to my mother as I hear her quietly repeat the chants that I have grown up listening to, I am comforted as I feel them come to my lips as well. I don’t remember learning them, but yet they are an inextricable part of who I am and how I was raised. From the days when I would walk with my sister and grandmother down the lane from our home in Colombo to the temple that has not changed in 20 years, to the snow-ridden homes-turned-temples that I visit with my parents in the dead of a U.S. winter, I can find those chants anywhere. Even before the books that I love, these chants were the first to show me the power of storytelling. And now, I can usher them forth even when the walls of a temple do not surround me. They give me the power to build my own.
Besides the lightly falling snow that made for an idyllic setting, last weekend was a peaceful favorite of 2014 because of one thing in particular: mom & dad came to visit me here in Cambridge. Yes, they made the 10 hour drive from Richmond. Yes, my mom still rolled up her sleeves and spent hours helping me pack and clean my room. And yes, my dad willingly helped and provided “instructions” as to what he thought should be packed where (my mom and I let him believe that we were paying heed).
Nevertheless, they came. And that means the world to me. It’s a funny thing that happens when you all of a sudden turn 20 and are no longer the one who is always walking through your front door at home to see your parents before you gallivant off on your next adventure. I suppose it’s a sign of my transition from teenhood to adulthood that my parents now come to visit me. They come to make sure that I’m ok and to wish me well. They come to buy me the things that I need and many more that I don’t. They shower me with advice and love and warmth amidst this frigid Boston winter. They may not be the family I choose but I would never choose anyone else.
I’m glad that I could go to temple with them last Sunday. It is something that my mom has been wanting to do for a long time. It is rare, though, that I was the only one in tow. But with my sisters elsewhere, it was just me and mom and dad. Parents + one college miscreant—we made quite the group.
I miss them already, but just like those Pali chants, it’s a good thing that I can always carry them with me.