My reflections on visiting DDMMBA
By Veronica Gassert
My first time coming to DDMMBA I was nervous to enter because I thought that
everyone there was Chinese and only spoke Chinese. I was afraid I wouldn’t know what to do or
where to go and that I wouldn’t fit in. I arrived for the Chinese New Years’ celebration at my
mom’s invitation. She was downstairs in the kitchen preparing food for the vegetarian lunch so I
didn’t see her when I came in. Instead I was greeted in English by the folks at the table by the
When I took my place inside the hall, I was greeted with a warm smile from the Dharma
Teacher, Master Guo Chi. She made eye contact with me even while she spoke to let me know
that I was welcome there. In addition she asked the volunteers at the center to find an English
program for me so I could follow along with the chanting.
I have a Catholic upbringing and I grew up in the United States, so coming into a place
like DDMMBA was a new cultural experience for me. Not only was the religious practice new to
me, also the food and language was different. Luckily for me I had some experience traveling in
Asia and participating in Tibetan Buddhist traditions, but it felt different to spend a whole
morning in a community that was close to where I lived in Massachusetts.
To me the practices of chanting and meditating even during lunch felt like an experience
unlike being at home, idly passing the day. Instead we as a community were engaged with one
another through the practices of Chan Buddhism. Every moment, I felt I had to be attentive to
what was going on. With more practice, maybe the meditation will feel like second nature.
The Dharma Teacher is a very engaging leader and many of the volunteers are very
devoted to their own practice, taking on roles of service within the community. It was inspiring to
see that play out through the times I have visited DDMMBA. Everyone is included, and also
everyone contributes. From cleaning, to cooking, to playing music, there is space for everyone
to share their talents. I really like this aspect of the DDMMBA community. From the beginning,
Fa Shi was looking for ways that I could contribute to the community. After just a few visits, I am
teaching yoga, and learning to get the most out of my experience with DDMMBA.
I am a certified yoga teacher, and so Fa Shi asked me to volunteer to teach a yoga
class. At first I showed practitioners a short sequence during the meditation retreats on the
weekend. Because of the positive response, I was asked to teach a class. I feel the community
is very active and supportive of one another as demonstrated by the large turnout for my first
class. No matter that I am an English speaker. People want to connect over the values of
Buddhism and that is the driving force behind the connections I have made in this community.