Question: “What exactly happens during the Buddhist equivalent of a religious service? Also, what initially made you interested in Buddhism?”
Different schools/traditions and temples have different forms of service. It’s very rare to find two temples with identical forms of services. In most cases it involves meditation, a Dharma talk and chanting.
I “found” Buddhism by accident, really. I’ve been meditating almost twice as long as I’ve been practicing Buddhism, unknowingly meditating Buddhist techniques. When I was about 14-15 I did some major soul searching. My then religion was just not cutting it. I didn’t believe in someone or something telling me how to life my life. I wasn’t atheist, I just thought that all these prophets and messengers were extremely high on something to be getting “messages” from god.
For a good chunk of my younger teenage life I considered myself a Pagan or a Spiritualist. I was extremely interested and fascinated by spiritualism and mysticism, so that became my religious/spiritual path for about 7-8 years. When I started college my interest in spiritualism and mysticism was slightly diminishing and I felt like even though I have great interest and respect for this, it wasn’t giving me any answers or what I needed.
My meditation was getting stronger and my mind clearer, but I just didn’t know what to do with it. Freshman or Sophomore year of college I read my first Buddhist book and until today my favorite, The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching by Thich Nhat Hanh. It gave me a guide and a path that I felt like I was already living, so that was my initiation into the world of Buddhism.
In early 2011 I watched PBS documentary The Buddha and something clicked in me and I felt like it changed my life. That summer I traveled to Thailand for 3 months and did a solitary meditation retreat. From there, the rest is history. I took my precept and refuge vows and eventually my Bodhisattva vows, and hopefully one day my ordination vows.
Smile and be well!