Monday, March 3, 2008

Dalat Day Two and Becoming a Buddhist

Dawdling in Dalat It wouldn't be until after 2pm that I would leave my hotel compound. Today I woke up ASS early, took an outdoor yoga class by the pool, set up a mountain bike trip for tomorrow, surfed the net, and then I was off into the town square. I noticed this Parislike Eiffel Tower and couldn't resist sharing.

My first stop was to eat lunch at the market.

Only the snail vendors were nowhere to be found. :( Dejected, I went high end and instead ended up at a corner cafe, where I sipped probably the strongest french coffee ever and had a French style ham and tomatoe sandwich, all for a whopping 23-thousand Dong. Doesn't this look like black oil??

I think that's close to $1.50 for lunch rather than the dollar dinner I spent yesterday.

After pulling 2-million Dong out of an ATM (that's about 120 bucks) I hopped into a taxi and headed for a short ride to the mountains, and to Chua Truc Lam, one of the newer pagodas or Buddhist Temples in the Dalat area.

PAGODA PARADISE A neatly manicured complex where monks and nuns live and meditate, this temple was erected in the early 1990s. Apparently there are about 150 men and women who lived here, all of whom have chosen this ascetic life over the one we masses endure. I kind of felt like a tourist paparazzi taking this shot, but hey, it was my first monk sighting here.

I think their job, outside of seeking enlightenment (as I observed), is to keep their place of worship clean and beautiful.

They do a great job. It's quite beautiful and peaceful up here. Look, they even carved topiaries in the form of dragons

I thought there would be an offering somewhere, but I did not see one, nor did I want to ask out of fear of disrespect. Maybe the offering came from the many benches around the estate, which bear the Vietnamese family monikors and their place of origen. I didn't take a picture of it, but one even said Los Angeles!

I was reminded of those front step bricks at Houston's ritzy La griglia restaurant , engraved with the names of Houston socialites who contributed to something related to the restaurant. Or maybe some fund rasing event. Or maybe some clever marketing ploy.

Anyhoo, I say if money is well intended, let those socialites have their fame. Similarly, if the monks need funds to keep this pagoda gorgeous, they can have their benches!

Teacher Talks

At the main pagoda I was greeted by a friendly monk I shall call "Teacher", since that's how you refer to monks in Vietnamese.

Teacher and I spoke for a good 15 minutes about Buddhism and what it means, as well of the art of meditation, something I have tried repeatedly on my own and have failed miserably. "It's all about the clutter in the head and ridding it," said Teacher. "But how do you do that?" I kindly asked. "Start with simply breathing in and out. Just start with ten deep breathes and move from there," he replied. And like an obedient student before her grasshopper, I nodded and promised to at least start making a concerted effort. "Teacher" told me he mediates for SIX HOURS a day. Once at THREE AM, once at noon, then finally from 7-9pm before retiring for sleep. Being the curious bee I am, I also learned "Teacher" moved to Buffalo New York in 1992, but now spends nine months here and 3 months there at temple. And interestingly, he proudly calls himself "An American."

Teacher's Teachings

Teacher told me that being a monk could be perceived as restricting, but it's actually quite freeing.... that if you want to achieve that higher spiritual state, if you want to come back in the next life a higher state of being, then monk/nundom is the chosen path for you. SIX HOURS of solitute, of thinking about nothing, in my head each day? I can't even go for 60 seconds! It seems hardly possible. Then again, so did finishing an Ironman.

Oh in case you are wondering WHY i am not Buddhist, I followed my fathers faith, and that's Catholicism. With the French came Christianity....

Oh, and since I was a 35 year old single woman with no children, why don't I consider becoming a nun? Teacher asked. I almost laughed out loud. Wow. I was being witnessed by a monk!

I feel sorry for my next life. I do howeer, like the idea of meditating more and freeing your mind of poisoning, wasteful thoughts. And breathing. Maybe someday I can return to this temple and thank Teacher for the encouragement.

I leave you with this. Cheers and happy training! "If you realize all things change, there is nothing to try to hold onto." Lao Tze


Spokane Al said...

Your story of your visit to the temple and the monks is absolutely terrific.

I look forward to reading and watching your videos concerning your continuing journey and apologize for not commenting enough.

Tarabay said...

I'm really digging the travel updates...

meditation? Whats that?

Anonymous said...

Wow!!!! Is teacher your new yoda? We can become nuns together CHelly!