Thursday, April 8, 2010

Walter Mason Speaking at the Cafe Church, Chapel by the Sea, Bondi Beach,

7pm Sunday APRIL 11
@Chapel by the Sea, Bondi Beach

Address: 95 Roscoe Street, Bondi Beach NSW

Phone: 02 9130 3445

Walter will be talking about spiritual life in contemporary Vietnam, and will lead an exercise in prayer and meditation on the prayer bells.

Walter is an academic and writer with a long-standing interest in meditation, prayer and other contemplative practices.

Walter has travelled extensively throughout Asia, and has spent long periods studying Buddhism and meditation in Vietnam, Thailand, Taiwan and Cambodia.

These days Walter is firmly committed to the idea of Interfaith spirituality, and is convinced of the possibility of meaningful exploration of plural spiritual paths. At present Walter's spiritual journey could be defined as Buddhist-Christian, with input from the ideas of Christian mystic Emanuel Swedenborg and inspired by the example of the Hindu mystic Ramakrishna.

Committed to the practice of meditation as an effective tool for spiritual exploration, Walter's approach is gentle and focused on individual needs. Rejecting the idea that 3 hours a day squatting on the floor is essential, Walter teaches that even 5 minutes a day of mindful sitting or movement can have a positive effect on people's lives.

Walter is the author of a spiritual travel book called Destination Saigon, recently released by Allen & Unwin.

Monday, April 5, 2010

One Pillar Pagoda

Along with the Dong Son drums and the conical hat, the One Pillar Pagoda in Hanoi (Chua Mot Cot) is one of the most common symbols of the Vietnamese nation.
These days it occupies prime nationalist real-estate, occupying as it does a corner of the massive Ho Chi Minh mausoleum park. Indeed on special commemorative days (and there is at least one a week) the Pagoda is closed to the public because it sits so close to the mausoleum.
And while the site and probably the general shape of the Pagoda are ancient, the structure itself is relatively recent, having been bombed by the French in an act of singular nastiness in 1954.
These days it's quite a nice place to hang out and do some people watching. Though the coconut-juice sellers and other touts are particularly avaricious here, they'll normally leave you alone if you ignore them for a minute or two.
The attached temple is quite an oddity. It seems to be staffed by a single monk, and it keeps extremely eccentric opening hours. If you can get in there, it is well worth visiting. I have no idea if the Temple was destroyed in the bombing, but the design and structure seem to me to be authentic, so the re-construction must have been exactly along the lines of an older temple structure. The statues inside seem quite authentically antique, and are beautiful examples of Northern Vietnamese Buddhist art - well worth spending some time with.