My first week in a Buddhist temple
Discovering a new life on my first week in the Philippines, I realise I’m learning a lot of new things. The first week under the HALA programme (Humanistic Academy of Life and Arts), an introduction to Buddhism, is over together with new perceptions, thoughts, challenges and changes that have come along.
I look back and I don’t know what to think. I’ve learnt so many things this week that it seems like a month. Days are very intense; we wake up at 6 in the morning and have a very packed schedule until we go to bed around 10 but the reality is that we end up going later.
Honestly, I only had basic notions of Buddhism before coming here. What I did know is that I was very interested in its philosophy. I decided to come to this programme because is very wide and I like challenges and I’m attracted to new projects.
One of the first things I learnt was:
Lăo shī ji xiang to show respect to the teacher. We say it by bowing every time a class is started. At the end of the class we thank the teacher by saying: Xiè xiè lăo shī (thank you, teacher).
Discovering that Buddhism involves discipline
First days confuse me and excite me at the same time. Eat slowly, no talking, chopsticks… too much discipline for me! Too many teachings at a time, maybe? Everything is new, a lot of barriers that become challenges, difficulties that are translated into harsh but satisfactory conversations with my ego.
I’ll tell you how an ordinary day is in a Buddhist temple. Before that I’d like to clarify that this Buddhism belongs to the Humanist Buddhism branch which means an everyday Buddhism is taught and is focused on charity, education and the integration of the people in Buddhism and vice versa.
It serves as a reference of semi monastic life or from the point of view of a devoted, not so from the daily life of a monastic, that obviously dedicates more time and effort to this lifestyle.
We wake up.
Morning chanting. We chant the Sutra, Buddha’s teachings. It’s a very intense 30-minute singing session. I’m really bad at it but this is the first time I feel comfortable with singing because none can hear me and I feel I belong to the group. We also bow and knee to pay respect to Buddha and walk around the temple and meditate.
Breakfast. Every meal is in silence. The idea is not to let any thought pop up in your mind and focus on what you are eating in order to taste it better.
In every meal two bowls and a plate are given to each of us. One of the bowls is for the rice and the other one for the soup. We can’t leave anything in our plates in order to appreciate the effort of the people that contributed on giving that food.
The ritual is a crossed practice which means the bowl that’s on your left must go to your right and vice versa. When you want to get more servings, you put them in their original position.
As an example we will take the previous picture. I would bring the rice bowl to the right of the plate (carefully, no noise) and the one with soup to the left. If I would like to have more rice after eating it, I will have to put the bowl again to my left and on the border of the table so that servers understand. One must thank with a light reverence with the head.
8.00 – 11.30
Class: from Buddhism classes to Asian music, from how to serve tea in China to tai chi.
11.30 – 12.00
13.30 – 17.50
18.00 – 18.30
Class and working meditation (cleaning our space).
We go to bed.
That would be a normal day at the Mabuhay Buddhist Temple in Manila e, though it can change. As I said before I’ve learnt a lot of things this week so I’ll highlight what I enjoyed the most.
We learnt how to prepare, serve and drink tea with Nena, a Chinese Filipina. It was very interesting and charming. I felt connected to Nena because she is a very natural, spontaneous and smiley person just like everyone else here.
At the Mid-Autumn Festival or also called Moon Festival, a Chinese tradition to celebrate the end of the harvest and contemplate the full moon.
Chinese celebrate it at home with their families and they have a good time and eat a lot of moon cake, delicious pastries made out of sweet bean paste.
We enjoyed different performances such as Chinese fan dancing, singing and a presentation of the different countries that are present in the programme.
Until here the first post of this big adventure, the first of a lot more that are to come. So many things to keep on discovering…
More about Buddhism
Why I decided to shave my head in a Buddhist temple
My travel tattoo: what’s behind my traditional tribal tattoo
My inspiration to travel around South America for 6 months