Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Chua Huong Mai

I spent last week in a little village about 20 kilometres outside of Quy Nhon called Nhon Hai. It was the most idyllic setting, beautiful mountains leading down to a picturesque fishing village almost totally isolated from the rest of the world. You can see that the roads are in a terrible condition, so I had to spend much of the trip there walking - arriving filthy and exhausted.
But it was worth it. I stayed at Chua Huong mai, my friend's beautiful little temple. He is a big city, highly educated monk who chose a sea change and went about transforming a sleepy little village shrine into one of the most beautiful temples in Vietnam. My few days spent living there were picture-book perfection, spending my afternoons on the temple terrace under the statue of Maitreya, reciting the Buddhist rosary, reading uplifiting books and snoozing.
The unchanging tempo of temple life is always incredibly relaxing, even though it means a 3.30 am start. The day being divided up into such definite sections means the hours fly by quickly.
The rooms were the utmost in simplicity - hard wooden platforms covered with a rattan mat, but I always slept like a baby, my heart content from the long evening prayers and the enforced periods of prayer, meditation and contemplation. I came away a new man.
I also got lots of writing done in those long hours of enforced idleness.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Kwan Yin

Kwan Yin is much loved in Vietnam, where she is known as Quan The Am. Temples always feature a little shrine to her somewhere on the premises, and some temples outdo themselves to create elaborate shrines to the Gentle Mother. Such statues often attract a cult following, and particular statues are thought to possess particular lucky energies. One could create a map of Ho Chi Minh City based on the various shrines to the Goddess of Mercy and what they are meant to bestow upon the sincere worshipper.