Saturday, October 19, 2019

Buddhist Temple Visit

Buddhism is religion that is based off of peace and spirituality taught by the teachings of Buddha, also known as Siddhartha Gotama. Many who follow its teachings believe Buddhism to be more of a way of life or lifestyle choice rather a religion. Buddha is not a god, but one man that taught his followers a path of enlightenment from his experiences and values. Buddha’s main teachings were the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path. The Four Noble Truths were teachings about suffering, pain, disease, happiness, loneliness, and aging.It explained why we as humans can overcome certain obstacles in our lives by looking at the more spiritual side of things such as â€Å"Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions. † (Dalai Lama). The Eightfold Path is the teachings of being moral, being aware of our actions and thoughts, developing compassion for others, and most importantly gaining wisdom from the understanding of The Four Noble Truths. I visited the Vietnamese Buddhist Center in Sugar Land this past Sunday and it was a sight to behold.The center was surrounded by a green metal fencing with some sort of crest or emblem that looked similar to an steering wheel on an old ship. Driving into the center, the main road was split then split into two smaller roads. The road to the left led to a parking lot, while the road to the right led to a smaller parking lot surrounded by small buildings that seem to be places of worship. The scenery that over hung the roads were statues of lion heads, beautiful trees and flowers in all sorts of colors.The main statue however was a huge tall Buddha in the middle of large pond filled with Koi Fish. There was a small tiled area that visitors could take pictures of the statue in its amazing and beautiful nature. The aura of the place was one of peace and tranquility. The small tiled visitor area was then extended by an overhanging wooden bridge leading to a large tiled courtyard with small trees that was around the perimeter. In the middle of the courtyard was two rows of small trees that were placed vertical to the steps of a large temple, which was the main place of worship.Behind the main temple was another small courtyard was two smaller buildings for worship to the left and the right of the courtyard. Another large building was to the back which looked fairly newly built. It seemed to be a place of serving food that contained no meat but some sort of meat substitute that was not artificially made from what the servers were telling me. Then to the right of that building was a small warehouse that looked to house desks and whiteboards for the weekly Vietnamese classes that are being held there.Outside of the warehouse was a basketball goal for the students that would come for Sunday school, and a small parking lot for more visitors. As I took off my shoes before entering the main temple before the first worship session began, I began to feel a sense of peace within myself as well those that were atten ding the worship session. Inside the main temple was a huge statue of Buddha surrounded with white silhouettes of the Lotus flower, which seems to be the symbol of peace. Tens of incense jars filled with sand litter the alter the room.The room smelled like incense, pleasant and peaceful. There were twenty rows of small cushions that were used for kneeling and sitting, and twenty rows of small raised shelves that were used for holding the prayers that were going to be recited during that session. People were filling the room really quickly, and seats were being taken fast. The elders were given their seats first, and if an elder came a tad late, someone would give them their spot and moved to the side of the room. Everyone was dressed somewhat casually. Most of the older occupants were wearing work clothes like the men wearing slacks and a nice fitted collared shirt, while the women would wear either a dress or slacks and nice top or blouse. The younger occupants, ones of my age or younger, would just be wearing casual school clothes like jeans and a tee shirt. In such a religious place, I have not yet witnessed a young female wearing short-shorts or any revealing outfit for that matter. The room was filled with a mild chatter of Vietnamese and English.Most conversations that I could comprehend were mostly of those catching up with each other and wondering how each other was doing and such. The younger occupants would be talking about the latest craze in music or movies. It suddenly got quiet as there was three loud bangs from striking of the gong to commence the prayers. The head monk for that prayer came out from one of the side doors in a traditional orange robe holding a microphone in his right hand, and prayer sheets in his left. He thanked us all for coming today and briefly explained he prayer we were going to be reciting. The prayer was for those that had lost a loved one, and for them not to be sad as their loved ones have found peace and tranquility as the moved on into the steps of enlightenment and eventually reincarnation. He then turned to the giant Buddha towards the front of the room and began reciting as everyone joined in and recited along. Everyone was on their knees having their hands together as they recited the prayer either from memory or from the pieces of paper that had three pages of prayers in Vietnamese.I could not read the prayers so I just silently glanced at them and tried to make sense of where we were in the prayers. Then one of the monks hit the small drum which everyone bowed for a few short seconds then returned to their original positions. Then a few moments later the drum was struck again, everyone bowed, but now stood up instead of returning to their knees. Then again, the small drum was struck, everyone bowed then returned to being on their knees. The prayer was now being recited faster as a drum was being struck with a beat in quick succession.This was repeated three times and when the prayers were being done recited, the head monk told those that have lost a loved one to follow him into the incense room. I followed about four families into that room. The room had pictures of everyone that had passed away that was a member of the temple. Families that were in that room had a special prayer and ceremony to honor their loved one. The monk said that one member of the family shall come up to the alter, drink a sacred tea and pour a small cup in honor of their loved one.A drum was struck as everyone started to recite a prayer. During the reciting, another monk came and tapped the four members that represented their families with some sort of sacred text. Then the prayer stopped as the four members went to the front, poured their tea, drank it, and poured it for their deceased loved one. Before everyone excited the room, every person was given three incense to pray and let their deceased loved ones know of their prayers today.They would bow three times, pause to pray, went up to the alter, placed their incense into the jar, returned to their spot, and lastly bow three times once more. That was my experience in a Buddhist Temple, the peace and tranquility of the people, and the monks was quite wholesome. Being a young adult, I never really understood the importance of religion and culture, but after visiting a place like this†¦ It really opened my eyes to how a religion can bring peace and everlasting faith within a person.

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