Members of my generation will remember from their childhood the Power Rangers. In fact, the American television series is still with us as I recently found out the original season was being broadcasted last year, and that there are plans to renew the show with a 19th season.
I loved the Power Rangers. I recall watching the show at every chance, eagerly anticipating the two movies as they premiered, and reenacting scenes with my companions. Most tangibly, I remember playing with my Green Ranger action figure. Readers of my generation may disagree, but the Green Ranger was the most badass of them all. Originally conceived as a foil to the five rangers (Red, Blue, Yellow, Pink and Black), he eventually overcame the wickedness gripping through his mind and joined the group in combating evil.
Playing with my Green Ranger figurine meant hours of fun, either by myself or with my friends as we joined forces. This was cool. Even when not playing with the toy, I arranged it to strike a pose as we waited until the next time.
Bhante Sukha Sambodhi of TTVMC in Riverside, CA, found an odd quirk among many of his American born practitioners. He mentioned this to myself and two friends while we were spending a weekend meditating at his meditation center. The quirk was in the ordering of the teachings, which were reversed from the MO of Buddhist practice in his native Burma. Precepts always came first before people committed to sitting. Instead, many of Bhante Sukha’s American students dived right into meditating without a solid teaching and experience with the precepts. This has been variously noted by other meditation teachers as well.
I myself have not formally taken on precepts, my own reasoning being that I may inevitably take life, steal, philander, lie, or use intoxicants and would be unable to hold myself to that standard of conduct. If after finding a community of practitioners close enough to home and heart, I may consider otherwise. They could keep me honest. This attitude however, could be to everybody’s detriment.
A community of Buddhists who hold precepts up high would help its own members hold onto their precepts, perhaps for dear life. The example of shunning has been used in other groups with mixed results. Good results being that more of its members could stand straight in line, and bad being a simple, inflexible and hard-line brutality towards complex actions in life.
My own practice would be put at jeopardy as well. I could be the best sitter in the group, but would do little more than vegetate if I depended entirely on others for my own ethics and well-being. And maybe that is what it comes down to: my own well-being. Rather than being a sole object while meditating, breathing while sitting would provide but one more distraction from dealing with past negative actions and would do little to prevent future transgressions. Maybe some restraints aren’t so bad.
About a month ago I was invited by the Muslim Student Association at my school to attend a talk given by a professor of Islam. The professor proceeded to give a beautiful image of Islam, its practices and meanings, its encouraging of pluralism over evangelism, and its humanistic values.
I had asked why Muslims were to pray five times a day towards Mecca. The practice itself is awe-inspiring, that upwards of 1 billion people perform this act of faith each day. He said, and reminds me that he has always said, “The nature of humanity if forgetfulness. We need reminders.” Prayer was one way of reminding oneself throughout the day about one’s faith and service to God. That it is done by so many people around the world in common spirit must also be a reminder of the communal fellowship that they all share.
That was all I needed to hear.