by Maree Doden
My name is Maree Doden and I live in Redwood City.
The real spelling of my name is "Mary" but I was a rebellious teenager and changed it sometime around high school.
I grew up in the time of hippies, psychedelic drugs, the original Volkswagon "bug" and the start of metaphysical "new age" belief!
I was a true "flower child" and rebelled against the Viet Nam war.
My sister and I always knew while growing up that something was wrong with our Mom.
She was often severely depressed and consoled by our Dad for long hours, even in the middle of the night.
Eventually my Mom committed suicide, in our house, in the middle of the day.
Suddenly I had a younger brother to care for (my Sister had just joined the Army) and a Dad that needed help running the house.
Handling my Mom's death was painfully hard and left me with a horrible feeling of abandonment.
The only thing that got me through that time was my spiritual belief and a realization of how valuable life was!
I had been baptized Methodist, but my life was spent searching for the right faith and the right church.
My criteria was: it had to believe in reincarnation, it had to believe that there was some sort of higher power, it had to know that we all had "God" in us and it had to not demand money just for the sake of being a CHURCH.
I tried Catholicism, Lutheran, Episcopalian, Judaism, Methodist (had to give it another chance!), Bah'ai Faith, Scientology, Church of God, Unity Church, Ananda and argued with almost every Mormon who came knocking at my door.
One day a neighbor in my condominium complex stopped by to tell my boyfriend Frank and I about a new Buddhist Temple here in Redwood City.
A very special ceremony was going to happen and she, now my Lineage Parent, was inviting us to the ceremony.
I asked her to repeat what the faith was, and when she said BUDDHIST my heart started racing.
Buddhism always seemed to be the one "religion" that I could never find anyone practicing, or knew about.
Here I had a neighbor who was a Buddhist….and I could barely pronounce her Japanese name!
The Grand Opening Ceremony for the Shinnyo-En USA Headquarters Temple was spectacular.
My neighbor was able to get two passes for Frank and I to sit in the main worship hall.
I had been instructed things to watch for and pay attention to during the service.
The smell of incense triggered a memory of growing up that never left me (my sister, Mom and I loved burning incense).
I remember repeating the words in my mind "watch for eye contact with Shinnyo Keishu-sama if she gets near you."
The ceremony ended and then we watched her Holiness turn and start walking down the center aisle.
Suddenly she was near our row, turned her head to look my way, smiled at me and waved back.
A complete sense of peace and joy filled me. This was a profound feeling that told me I was finally "home."
What an incredible feeling of joy it was.
Within a couple weeks after that event I became a Shinnyo-En follower and it has been the best thing that has ever happened in my life.
It's been over 3 years now, and I work with much determination doing the Three Practices and trying to receive the spiritual elevation level of Daijo.
I am so grateful for Shinnyo Soyo-Sama, the two Dojis, Shinnyo Keishu-sama and the darma protectors.