Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Temple Trek Two

Some months ago I posted about a Saturday we spent “Temple Trekking” with a colleague of mine. We spent two weekends with her discovering the international city of Houston. This post covers the second weekend.

Our first stop was the Chung-Mei Buddhist Temple. We started in the temple garden.

This young monk is tapping on his “Mokugyo”.

This young monk is napping instead of tapping on his “Mokugyo”, or “Wooden Fish” used to set the pacing of chants. His face conveys the deep peacefulness that many of us are working so hard to find. Maybe if we just sat for a bit and relaxed into the present moment, we would find what we are seeking.

Young apprentice monk with his begging bowl.

One of twelve young monks with a zodiac symbol. I had to have a picture of the dragon.

On the temple steps.

No pictures were allowed inside of the temple. It was much like the Jade Temple except there were three Buddhas on the altar: Shakyamuni Buddha, Amitabha Buddha and the medicine Buddha - Bhaishajyaguru. Instead of pews there were kneelers. There was a small museum area where the story of Kuan Yin was told.

Chung-Mei Temple has a tea room -- FoGuangYuan Tea Room. A drop of water, it is a place for people to sit down and enjoy a cup of tea, and talk about Buddhism and Ch’an. The name of Ch’an Abode - a drop of water - tells us that we should appreciate what we have around us, cherish and be grateful. Tea drinking has an important place in the traditions of Ch’an Buddhism, great monks have attained enlightenment through drinking tea. When people come for a cup of tea they can also attain the wisdom of Buddha’s teaching.

On the suggestion of Rev. Hong, who was an excellent hostess, we ordered three pots of tea, an order of Chinese pancake (small six wedge puff pastry) and an order of Ju-Yi sandwich (made with fresh baked bread, mushrooms, corn, a special blend of herbs and served warm). Everything was delicious. The tea was especially good. My favorite tea was the special fruit tea -- a delicate blend of apples, pineapples and jasmine flowers. The aroma was divine. Kao Shan Tea (high mountain) is a green tea that is grown in the mountains of Taiwan. Only the top tender leaves of the plant are used to make the tea. The third pot of tea was called Black Forest and included blueberries. Mr. Dragon and I need to go back and try out more of the menu -- there is a Prosperity Tea and a Chinese Mint Tea; Prosperity Rice (seven grain special temple blend brown rice with veggies) and Longevity Rice (very dark rice that is cooked with seven grains and beans giving it a distinctive color and flavor and includes veggies and tofu). After our tea we were off to our next stop - a Hindu temple.

The BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir is the first traditional Hindu shrine of its kind in the country. It’s a massive, sprawling, but resolutely graceful temple, made out of hand-carved white marble from Italy and limestone from Turkey. It’s all turrets, arches, and flags outside and carved likenesses of Hindu gods on the inside. The marble is cool under your bare feet. We had such a good time as we called out to each other as we recognized the Hindu gods -- a nagini, Vishnu and his avatars, Ganesh, Brahma and oodles of others.

Our Saturday came to a close much too swiftly. Soon our friend would be off to China and Beijing to study for a year. We do hear from her and about some of her adventures. She is thinking about starting a blog -- yippeee!

1 comment:

Sharon said...

I just had to stop over and tell you that I just received the most wonderful new supply of napkins. How generous you are! I know I will enjoy them and there is already one that is talking to me. Thank you for such a wonderful surprise.