By Susan Wang
Every Saturday morning, Caroline Maeda ’12 makes the hour-and-a-half drive from her house in Northridge to Torrance for religious services. Maeda is a Buddhist — the only one in her Christian family.
Maeda is half Japanese and was raised a Buddhist after her father’s religion. Maeda’s father died before she was born, but Maeda continues to practice her late father’s religion as a tribute to him. Maeda’s grandparents on her father’s side, who were also Buddhist, took her to temple every weekend and enrolled her in youth classes when she was younger.
“On weekends I’d be dropped off by my parents and sleep over at my grandparents’ house, and they’d take me to my temple,” she said.
Since then, Maeda has been an active member in her temple community, leading a youth group for high schoolers. Every month, her group gets together with other Southern California temple groups to socialize, participate in leadership workshops and take classes to learn more about the religion. They also discuss how to apply Buddhism to everyday life.
“I like [being part of the youth group] because I’ve become close with all of my temple friends, and it’s nice to have a set of friends who you share something spiritual with,” Maeda said.
At school, however, Maeda does not talk about Buddhism because she does not know any other Buddhists.
At home, Maeda’s mother is Catholic while the rest of her family is Protestant. Her family actively practices religion and attends church services on Sunday mornings. However, Maeda does not attend.
Maeda’s family celebrates Christmas and Easter as both cultural and religious holidays.
“I’ll pray with my family at the dinner table for respect and because it’s something that’s important to them even though I’m not Christian,” she said. “They always come support me at [temple] events.”
“My parents really support it because they think that it’s good that I’m keeping a relationship with my dad, even though I never got to meet him,” she said.
Maeda believes she can connect to and eventually understand what her father was like through Buddhism.
“I feel a bit closer to my dad every time I walk out from a temple service,” Maeda said. “It’s a relaxed type of zen feeling that calms me down, and I feel really content.”