Chapter Two

A Buddha In My Junior High School

     One day, Mika Suzuki (teenage Berkeley Buddha) had to go to school very early. It was raining so she did not want to ride her bike but her mother needed to be at work by 8:am so Mika needed to go to school by 7:30 if she wanted a ride.

     Driving to school, Mika noticed a girl walking on the sidewalk while they were still a half mile from school. She recognized the girl as they drove past but she did not want to bother her mother to make her stop. Later that day, however, she saw the girl in the lunch room. She was a pretty girl but not pretty like a rock star or a celebrity. She was “perfect-pretty.” Every hair was combed just right and her shirt looked brand new or just ironed. She was wearing jeans that fit perfectly. Mika decided to talk to her.

     “Hi, I’m Mika. Can I sit here?” Not waiting for an answer, She sat down and asked,  “What’s your name?”

     “I’m Cimara. (See-Mara).

     Mika thought to herself… that’s a “perfect name.” “I saw you walking in the rain this morning. And you were still a long way from school. Don’t your parents ever drive you to school?”

     Cimara looked at the ceiling and stared for a minute. Then she looked at Mika and said “I’ve seen you around. You look friendly.” She stared for another minute and began to talk softly. “Yeah. My parents have cars and they actually do drive me most of the way to school but I ask them to bring me early and turn on a side street and let me out 6 blocks away because I don’t want anyone to see me get out of their cars.”

     (Mika) “What? It was raining!”

     (Cimara) “Yeah. I know. But my parents drive these really old funky beat-up hippy-mobiles and I don’t want people to see me in them. I mean…my parents are nice and very smart and they both work with computers and make plenty of money but they think it’s cool to drive these old junkers. And they go to work in sweatshirts and cheap jeans and I can’t stand to be seen with them. So I always get out of the car and walk the last six blocks.”

     (Mika) “Uh… well… You are dressed so nicely. I mean… there are kids in this school who wear make-up and jewelry and fancy leather jackets… but you just look really nice and normal.”

     (Cimara) “Thanks. I knew you would understand.”

     (Mika) “Actually, I’m not sure I do understand. I never gave that much thought to the way my parents dress or what they drive or how I look when I’m with them. That’s really important to you?”

     (Cimara) “Please don’t misunderstand. I like my parents. But I want to have friends like you and I’m afraid you would think I’m weird if you saw me in their rattle-trap cars.”

     (Mika) “Well… you can be proud of your parents for who they are and still not be exactly like them… You just need to be proud of yourself. And I think your friends could understand that.”

Discussion:

Do you know anybody like Cimara?

How do you decide what to wear to school every day?

Do you know anybody like Mika?

“Adventures of a Teenage Buddha in Berkeley.”

Chapter One

A Buddha In My Junior High School

You probably have heard the story of Prince Siddhartha who grew up to become the Buddha. He was raised in a royal mansion in India. But I was wondering what his life would have been like if he grew up here in Berkeley. What would his life have been like if he was just “Michael Johnson” or maybe “He” was a “She” named “Mika Suzuki” in my 8th grade class. (Get ready… I have a vivid imagination).

I can see the young future-Buddha riding her bike while chewing on the last bite of the breakfast granola bar she grabbed as she was going out the door and listening to Miley Cyrus with earbuds plugged into her Samsung Galaxy. She gets to an intersection and is almost run over by a person speeding to work in their Tesla which she couldn’t hear because it is electric and very quiet and her headset was turned way up. “Wow,” she says to herself. “People are so busy… they should pay more attention to what they are doing… or maybe I should pay more attention to what they are doing… or maybe I should pay more attention to what I am doing. Yeah….Wow.”

She gets to school and starts walking to class when the campus security person stops her. “Sorry,” he says. “But, you need to go home and change your clothes. Those distressed jeans are not approved by the dress code. They have torn places above your knees.”

So now Mika Suzuki, future Buddha, rides home alone and starts to think.

Berkeley is a dangerous place. There are so many people doing so many bad things and so many rules telling me how I should look, and talk, and behave all the time. I’m not sure I fit in this world… or at least Berkeley. I was just trying to “be myself.” “I was eating what I wanted to eat. I was going to school to see my friends and my teachers. I was dressed the way I feel comfortable. But everybody I encounter has different ideas. What’s up with that?”

So… What do you think the young Buddha would have learned from her experiences on this day in Berkeley? Would she decide that Berkeley is a terrible place filled with awful people? Would she become depressed because she seemed to do everything wrong and not fit in with the crowd at school? Would she put on a nice pair of flannel slacks and a long sleeve shirt and walk back to school carefully crossing with the lights? Would she e-mail her teacher and ask to have her assignments sent to her by e-mail from now on so she could just stay home alone? Would she become a hermit or would she choose to dress according to the school code but express herself in some other way like wearing a baseball cap on backwards? How would she decide who the real “Mika Suzuki” really is?

I imagine this young future Buddha would have to think a long time. What do you imagine she would think about?

Stay tuned for more “Adventures of a Teenage Buddha in Berkeley.”