A few years back, I was fortunate to be introduced by my gf "C" to a rather eclectic local group , which has no formal gathering time/place or name, but whom I refer to as the Denton Buddhists. Such a group contains the usual assortment of ex-hippies, free-thinkers, wannabees (I include myself in that label) and this being a 2 college town with a fair number of international students and professors, folks from all over the world for whom Buddhism is their native cultural practice.
These folks , as far as I can tell, assemble in a variety of ways, and mostly seem to know one another - how, I am not exactly sure (being a "new-comer", having lived in town only 11 years, and barely on the fringe of acceptance, myself) ......I know there is a funny sort of Japanese temple-looking building here in town, known to natives as " the ashram" ( recalling those long ago days of the Beatles White Album and Haight Ashbury and all that implies) and which, as far as I can tell, is known chiefly nowadays for offering an oxygen bar and yoga classes in the late afternoons. The local Unitarian church offers yoga too, as well as holds a meditation session on Monday nights ( which I have not yet attended, b/c it conflicts with too many kid activities for which I am still designated chauffeur.....but someday, when Son # 1 can drive.......) We have a small but charming locally owned organic grocery food store here in town, kind of like Whole Foods but not as yuppified, that has a wonderful cafe inside - I have seen some of the same faces there. And to the uninitiated - i.e., me - that seems to be all I can find out about this group, where they hang out, what they do.
I keep asking all whom I meet : Where can I go to learn more about the practices of Buddhism ? Where can I study / learn to meditate / buy books / talk to others ? The answers to my queries are vague.......perhaps this group, Buddhists trying to co-exist in this land of the Bible belt, is deeply underground. Perhaps it does not exist in any formal sense. That would be typical of the beliefs of many Buddhists I know.
So it is with a brief sense of joy, however tenuous - similar in nature to that one day a year when all the monarch butterflies pass through Texas on their way to their winter's sojourn in Mexico -that I join other folks in town interested in learning more about Buddhism for a lunch with the Jolly Lama. Who is the Jolly Lama , you ask ? He is Lama Rinpoche Dorjee, (Dagpo Rinpoche, born in 1932 in Tibet, was recognised by the 13th Dalai Lama as the reincarnation of the great master Dagpo Lama Rinpoche Jampel Lhundrup. His previous reincarnations include the Indonesian master Lama Serlingpa, who was the main teacher to Lord Atisha, as well as the translator Marpa, master to the famous Milarepa, sayeth his own web page), and he makes the trek to Denton once a year to help local business woman Angela Sangmu , (owner of a wonderful little shop, Juliet's Jewels, which sells clothing, handcrafts and jewelry from Tibet, India, and other Asian countries) celebrate her birthday. She graciously shares these visits with all in town who are interested in listening to a few words of wisdom from Lama Rinpoche, who is known as "the jolly lama" due to the natural and joyful use of humor in his teachings. The J.L.'s visits start with sharing a truly gourmet pot-luck lunch ( mostly, but not entirely vegetarian). Folks loosely associated with the Denton Buddhists gather together, eat, then listen to the Jolly Lama give a little talk on whatever he feels is the Topic du Jour. This year, it was how to focus and survive, by altering one's thinking, in a time of economic crisis and upheaval. Could not have been more timely .....and the things he says, simple core Buddhist ideas, hit right home to me. I enjoy this day very much, and look forward to it each year.