On Tuesday evenings, a Buddhist couple who live not far from my home host a Buddhist “toso” meeting so we local Buddhists can get our evening chant on together. A few weeks ago, Neil was away at science camp and Peter was working late, so Kelly and I stayed on after the chanting was over. What we discovered was that the Buddhist meeting was merely the precursor to the full out weekly party that follows. Just staying means being able to dig into the best sushi, sashimi and various Japanese drinks while my kids are digging into the fresh fruit and tortilla chips, and I get to listen in to various stories about the human condition, Buddha-style. Since then, I’ve been going more regularly even if it means the kids have to stay up past their bedtime.
So today I got an email telling me that if I intended to come to the toso tonight, not to bother eating dinner. One of the regulars, Patty, was turning 55, and our regular hosts were going to put on a dinner party with both meat and vegetarian lasagna, garlic bread, cheese crostinis, and of course, birthday cake. Anyone who wished to come might bring appetizers or a gift, but it was not required. I wussed out at the last moment and just clipped some roses from my garden.
We zipped through the religious portion of the meeting with extra speed this week, and chowed down. Kelly and another boy her age decided to play “tease the dog,” while some of the adults drank wine, reminisced about a recent trip to Japan, and pondered about their personal lives aloud. Even Neil, who doesn’t practice Buddhism with me, got a good laugh from the koan jokes. And, oh, yeah, we occasionally wondered where the birthday girl had gone off to, especially when she went outside to have a smoke.
I was curious about what appropriate gifts are for a fellow Buddhist you don’t know particularly well. It’s actually fairly simple: nice budsegu (items for the Buddhist altar) or incense sticks will never miss. Fairly that, things that smell nice like candles and flowers are perfect too. Those who knew her better gave her the Cars DVD and a small DVD player, so she can watch her favorite movie on those long flights between her and Japan. After we had run way way past the kids’ bedtime I wished her a happy Earth Day birthday, because what birthday could possibly be better (other than New Year’s Day or a certain day in May) to have a birthday? Oh, it probably is the best possible birthday for a white American Buddhist. In any case, we all had a good time, and I’m sure the party lasted way on into the night.