Four Inane Questions with Temple Buddhist Center’s Victor Dougherty


Courtesy photo

If the trials and tribulations of life have you down, Victor Dougherty has your back, spiritually speaking. He’s been the Zen-tastic director of the Temple Buddhist Center at Unity Temple on the Plaza since 2018.

“I’ve been practicing for over 18 years leading retreats, classes, workshops on Buddhism, meditation, and mindfulness to groups all around the area,” he says. 

Given his 26-year career in education, Dougherty says this is the perfect outlet for him.

“Finishing my master’s degree in education, I have flourished teaching students of all ages,” he says. “When my friends were reading science fiction novels, I was reading books on transactional analysis.”

Dougherty is very candid about how his practice not only began but blossomed.

“When I was 44, I experienced a very painful trauma in my life and began seeing a therapist for help,” he says. “After a few sessions, he told me I wasn’t having a mental crisis; I was having a spiritual one, and then sent me to the American Buddhist Center. Ever since that day I have met with my teacher—the founder of ABC—twice a week and continue to do so even now. My commitment is to my practice, the teachings, and to my sangha, the spiritual community.”  

We caught up with Dougherty between his renowned Sunday services to ping him with our assortment of asinine questions. He’s so chill there wasn’t even the slightest hint of an eye roll. 

Image 1

Courtesy photo

The Pitch: What’s a complicated, tongue-twisting chant you just can’t quite seem to get? 

Victor Dougherty: So, there’s a chant from the Tibetan tradition of Buddhism that looks like this: Om Ami Dewa Hrih.

All the words there are pretty self-explanatory except one—hrih

When I asked a visiting monk about the word, he laughed and said, “You don’t have this sound in English.” I’m, like, “Okay, try me.” 

So, he says, “Curl your tongue up to touch the roof of your mouth. Pull the corners of your lips back. And in a throaty, guttural way say ‘AY.’” I know I looked ridiculous trying to make this sound because the whole delegation was rolling on the floor! So, to this day, I just say Zay.

Meditation is a very integral Zen part of your talk each week. What percentage of the Sangha legit fall asleep? 

I think this is why we are growing in attendance so quickly these days—at a meditation service, no one knows you are sleeping.

We did have a person experiencing homelessness wander into the service once. After about 10 minutes, I started looking around trying to figure out what that noise was. He quickly fell asleep and was snoring loudly. 

I shifted the dharma talk [message] to finding internal peace when external peace is not available. After the service, we took him downstairs and got him some hot coffee and cookies. Everyone is our teacher.

You can only pick one kind of jelly/jam to consume for the rest of your life. What is it and why?

I’m gonna say royal jelly! You know, bee spit. 

It’s not quite honey and is used to feed the queen bee. What can go wrong? It’s supposed to (bee) good for dia(bee)tes, fatigue, high cholesterol, and many other ailments. And may(bee) the bees will sense my royalness and not sting me.

What’s one thing people absolutely, positively do not know about you?

So, I went to college at Emporia State to get my teaching degree. Like many students, I could not afford much and needed to work part-time to make ends meet. 

Somehow, I got a job as a karaoke DJ at some of the local pubs and cowboy palaces. My job was to haul in the equipment, set it up, sing the first three or four songs—until everyone was drunk enough to get their courage up—and then keep it all rolling the rest of the night. The problem? After two years of doing this, I became, uh, let’s say disenchanted with the process. So, to get myself fired, I started insulting the singers. Little did I know this became huge and they loved it! 

Not only did I not get fired, but I also started working extra weekends!

Bonus 5th Question: What’s your favorite go-to joke to tell? And what sort of response does it get? 

Well, this stems from a very late night at an IHOP. A couple of lifetimes ago (I am Buddhist, after all), I was in a bluegrass/Irish band. We played at a popular Irish pub in Weston and were heading home at about 2 a.m. 

We stopped to get food, and I noticed blintzes on the menu. So, with a gleam in my eye, thinking I was very funny, I pointed at the menu and exclaimed, “I once saw the Goodyear Blintz!” The other five band members stopped talking, looked at me rather puzzled, and then carried on their conversation as if nothing happened. 

Even though I kept repeating the phrase, they never acknowledged my comedic brilliance. [Sigh] I’m not sure the world is ready for me.

Categories: Culture