Meditating on Philosophy

Metta House offers pathway to peace, creativity

Those looking for an escape from the day-to-day chaos of the modern world may find a quiet oasis at Metta House, a new meditation center in Beaumont.

Actually, that isn’t true at all. There is no real escape from the technology-filled noise of society. And quiet is only to be found within.

Kassapa Bhikkhu walks through the meditation room at Metta House.

That’s where Metta House comes in, offering weekly mediation sessions every Wednesday at 2355 Pecos.

The ability to concentrate is like a cone, Kassapa Bhikkhu, Metta House abbot, said. Meditation allows the practitioner to let the levels pass by until the focus is completely in the point.

The house is centered around Buddhist philosophy, but Kassapa said that the meditation sessions are open to all, regardless of faith or lack thereof.

“I began to dream of an American Buddhist Sangha in 2001,” he said. “I want to help develop Buddhism in this country — not the religious side, but the philosophy — the day-to-day life skills. It caught on and people liked that idea.

“I like the philosophy. It’s the day-to-day living — treating others well, treating yourself well, the consequences of actions — that’s very important.”

Most of the people who attend the house are not Buddhists, and they do not push people to become Buddhists, Danny Dubuisson, public relations spokesman, said, adding that he has been involved with Buddhism since 1999 and meditates seriously, but is not a “card-carrying” Buddhist.

“Meditation is way to grow spiritually, or just a good, healthy tool to improve concentration, lower blood pressure,” he said. “That’s what’s so nice about this — there’s no pressure.”

One of the things Kassapa teaches is that meditation is not just in the moment, it can be taken anywhere — to class, work, family, etc.

“When you walk into class, into work — your boss is on your rear end — you can take a few moments, recall, do the breathing exercise, and all of a sudden, all of it is gone. It’s a training — and it works,” he said.

There are practical applications for the artist as well.

“It’s very interesting,” Kassapa said. “People have come here for meditation and say, ‘I’m working on a project and I am stuck. My imagination has left me and I’m drowning in a sea of ideas that mean absolutely nothing.’ I say, ‘Why worry about things. Just sit.’

“It can be applied to anything, but it seems people who are more creative in their mindset, they figure things out to be more creative with their colors, shapes, sizes — that dimension of filling out the edges and seeing what things are going to look like. You can turn things around in your mind because you have the concentration and can focus your energy on being creative.

“And that comes directly out of the meditation because it feeds it, it feeds you as a person. You are no longer thinking about, ‘Did I turn the stove off? Do I need to iron a shirt?’ That’s what it teaches you, to be more in that moment — to be mindful. And mindfulness training is mediation.”

Dubuisson said that mediation helps to free the mind from distractions.

“It’s a good tool to initiate your artistic sessions, to relax down in a positive manner,” he said. “And at the same time, if you get hung up and need to break away, it releases you and allows you to go again.”

Dubuisson said that when he is meditating, he might hear a siren pass by, causing him to begin to create a story around it. Is it police, fire or ambulance? Is someone hurt? Where are they going?

“But once you get the meditation down, you go, ‘Siren,’ and return to the focus.”

Kassapa, a Florida native, was at the Buu Mon Temple in Port Arthur for six years. The Vietnamese people were very good and wonderful people, he said, but he noticed that the Americans who came for meditation didn’t participate in the religious side, but they did embrace the philosophical side.

“When we had a chance to open up a meditation center in Beaumont, we took it,” he said.

Metta House is focused on an American Buddhism. Bhikkhu said he believes this is the first temple/medi-tation center in America run by Americans.

“What we’re trying to create is American Buddhism in the sense that it’s based on American culture,” Dubuisson said. “We’ve had Buddhism — Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese — but it’s based on Asian philosophy and culture. But we’re hoping here to have American Buddhism based on American culture and American celebrations. We’ve had a Thanksgiving celebration.

“We’ll also have the traditional Visak, where we celebrate the Buddha’s birth. It’s going to be that, plus.”

Kassapa said that it is important for people to be able to pick and choose what is right for them.

“It means that much is working for you, and that’s a reason to celebrate,” he said.

Dubuisson said that the different forms of Buddhism interact well with each other.

“That’s something that is important to understand,” he said. “The door is open to any culture, any religion that wants to be involved, to learn meditation and to learn something about Buddhism.”

A lot of the young people who attend Metta House are students, Kassapa said.

“They seem to get it, because they are not looking at formal religious upbringing in the homes anymore, but they know there is a reason for goodness — they are just not sure where goodness comes from,” he said. “It’s because of that that they seem to turn on to Buddhist ideas. Sometimes they have the wrong thoughts, but they are thinking and becoming thinking people. I like that.”

He said that the young people who attend the center are not cynical, but they are searching. He said he hopes Metta House can fill a niche.

Buddhism does not compete with religion because it is a philosophy that transcends any one religious dogma.

“That’s what’s hard for Americans to wrap their heads around,” Kassapa said. “This is a philosophy that is given a religious status because of the success of the philosophy and the multitude of people who follow that philosophy. But it all boils down very simply to self-investigation and coming to terms with the self.

“The mediation is a way to observe self in a non-attached manner. Buddhism doesn’t compete with any god-form, because there is no god concept here. It’s about the individual and the individual coming to terms with himself. Once you come to terms with yourself, then you can more compassionately approach others and develop wisdom and greater insight into what your part is and what the world is all about.”

The meditation sessions are held every Wednesday at 7 p.m. People may come and go, and there is no set class schedule.

“Once people get started they really like to come,” he said. “You’re not forced. It’s not like you get graded on it. It’s a gift you give to yourself.”

After the sessions, participants are welcome to stay for a social gathering. Dubuisson said that the session begins with the basics, but at the social, the more experienced practitioners can fill in the gaps.

The sessions last half an hour, but participants are encouraged to do 10-15 minutes a day on their own.

“Wednesday night is for group encouragement and to learn the basics,” Dubuisson said, but the daily self-motivated sessions are where the participants grow into it.

There is no fee, but visitors are encouraged to pay what they can. Often times, people will volunteer to help clean up on weekends as a way to contribute.

“We are not trying to get rich here, just to keep the doors open,” Dubuisson said.

For more information, call 409-234-3221, or visit the Metta House facebook page.

Issue Magazine – February 2013
Story and photos by Andy Coughlan