Intentionally killing a sentient being is a very serious attitude, and if possible we should avoid ending up with even the smallest, most harmless creatures as lives. By creating such habits of respect, we develop a similar attitude toward everyone else.
With this lesson and precept, we were introduced to the Sudeoksa Temple, located in the middle of the mountains of South Korea.
The program is called Temple Stay, and as good Anglo-Saxon speakers we can conclude that a stay in a temple, a Buddhist on this case, will be enjoyed. This project is offered by several entities, and has for purpose and immersion, even for short time (3 days), its participants in the practice and the life of the monks.
Do not think that the life of a nice being, with shaved hair, comfortable robes and open smile, is easy. The routine should be strictly followed, starting at exactly 3 o’clock in the morning with prayers, meditation and prostrations.
By meditating, do not simply think about closing your eyes and letting the thoughts travel for you. Actually, this is what should be avoided. When sitting with your spine erect and crossed legs (left over right), we should focus on our breathing, so that our mind is focused and not lost. Patience and perseverance are gifts, because the process can be tiring and painful.
Take a glass of water and shake it. This is the state of our mind, without proper control. The day-to-day turbulence causes the reasoning to be muddled, generating conclusions and consequent misconduct. Thus, Buddhist teachings and meditation tend to reassure these waters. With stabilization, and maintaining a serene temperament, the peak would be to show no excitement, either for good, or for evil.
According to the Tibetan Buddhists, 108 is the number that one should repeat a same mantra or the same mentalization in each practice. According to my knees, 108 is a very high number for any activity.
Placed upright and face to face with another person, with hands clasped (slightly curved, at heart level, touching only the bases of the palms and the tips of the fingers) I was instructed to think that good things would be obtained by my pair (doing the same in front of me), and so that it would attain illumination (maximum state).
Soon after, I should get down on my knees on the floor, and touch my forearms and forehead on the ground, a perfect Buddhist prostration. After making my palms up, and lightly raising my hands, I should place a piece on the empty rosary placed before me. I stand and stare at the person who is desiring all the best, waiting for the reciprocity (which her smile indicates), and I repeat the action, until all 108 parts are in their proper place.
Honestly repeated meditation, I actually saw a Buddha in my face.
It is worth remembering that Buddhism is not simply a religion, but an ethical and philosophical system, with many beliefs and practices, usually based on the teachings of Buddha, which in Sanskrit (ancient sacred language of India) means enlightened. This title is given to a Buddhist master, or to all enlightened ones who attain Buddhist spiritual attainment. Although there are many Buddhas, Siddartha Gautama is the best known of them (for being the founder, Buddha Shakyamuni). It is also necessary to emphasize that Buddha is not a God, and this factor does not exist in Buddhism.
Other lessons, obtained during the days lived in the temple, are the concepts of attachment, desire and impermanence.
Do not think that loving your neighbor is not allowed, but attachment to something or someone should be controlled, to the point of not existing.
We are attached to our possessions, we are attached to the people we love, we are attached to our position in the world, and to our career and to what we achieve.
We think that by holding these things, and these people firmly, we will have security, and that it will bring us happiness. This is considered our fundamental disappointment, because it is the attachment itself that makes us insecure, and insecurity gives us the feeling of constant malaise.
A clinging mind is the cause of our suffering, and we are constantly deceived, because we think our greed, and our desires point to the sources of happiness. I may be sounding abstract and dreamy, but the fact is that our desires can never be fully realized, for aspirations are endless. Buddha compares them to drinking salt water. The more we drink, the more thirst we get.
Speaking of water, I must mention how the food experience with the monks was. Assuming that they do not kill living beings, it is understandable that the base is all vegetarian, but the striking fact is to avoid wastage.
Rice, vegetables and so on are placed in a larger bowl while a soup is placed in the smaller one.
There is a whole ritual with the cloths placed above the containers, but the description of it is complex. The very same thing is that we should keep a kimchi (fermented cabbage, already mentioned here). Our sponge-cabbage does the dirty service, while the water helps to take away the impurities. In excess, the liquid is a problem, because we will drink this mixture later.
We ate everything, cleaned with the last cabbage and drank the rinse. Thus all waste is ingested.
The last, but not least important, concept addressed is that of impermanence, and to demonstrate it we construct and observe the development of mandalas of salt by Tibetan monks.
Following the choice of a theme, the drawing is elaborated and the colored salt is spread through a paper.
I would like to possess the ability of the monks to build such an attractive mandala, but I never excelled in the arts class.
At the end of the whole process, a shock. Contrary to all our beliefs and ideologies, the mandala must be destroyed. According to Buddhism, we need to live only the moment.
We build something, we enjoy it instantly, but as everything is fleeting and impermanent, it will come to an end. This principle also reveals how death is best received and dealt with by this philosophy.
Much has been learned, and even more prompted the search for more knowledge. The path is arduous and the process painful.
The intention of this post is not to convert anyone (even because I was not converted), much less to try a brainwashing. It is more like a book, written by the Dalai Lama, stating that no matter our religion, or even lack thereof, ethical principles should be followed by all.
I believe that all learning enhances us, but if we are to achieve Nirvana (ultimate extinction of human suffering achieved through the suppression of individual desire and consciousness), only time will tell.
As Kurt Cobain would say:
“I can’t see the end of me
My whole expanse I cannot see
I formulate infinity
Store deep inside me”
This entry was posted in Asia