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Tiffany's Adventures in China

Holy Grounds

Monday, August 10, 2009

Yesterday (the tenth of August, for those of you in the States) we entered THE Shaolin Temple. As my parents are Buddhists, the experience for me was one filled with awe.

As we entered, people tried to hawk their souvenir-type goods and cicadas made their strange, constantly scraping sounds. The threshold (a raised step in most entrance doorways) was considerably higher than most we have encountered. (Since devils supposedly have no knees in the Chinese tradition, it is fitting that there would be a raised step to keep these demons out of places, especially one as religious as Shaolin Temple.). Like several places we have visited, the area had a strange sense of mystery and antiquity. Our guide pointed to a massive tree with a trunk perhaps about as wide as the hood of a Toyota Yaris (just estimating here) and said that the temple's history was actually older than the tree itself. Wow.

Then we had a lengthy lecture by the lead supervisor of Shaolin Temple. His words were so inspiring and I could even sense that some of my non-Buddhist peers felt the powerful message of his talk. The first section of the lecture was an interesting basic history of the temple's 1200+ years. Although the temple has been rebuilt multiple times on different areas (in the same general place, though), records reveal much about its past. The second part was an open-question section where people could ask about anything; some chose to question two framed sentences on the wall behind the master (which is his title in the temple). He explained basic beliefs of Buddhism and stated that the three things one should avoid (in a sense, three "sins") are anger, greed, and stupidity (also could be ignorance). According to the master, if these feelings can be avoided, then the path to happiness and wisdom will be clearer. This talk really inspired me to strive to become a better person, although it'll be pretty difficult--who can say that he/she hasn't had an elevated temper once in a while? Still, I found myself listening intently as he spoke wise words. Personally, I felt honored just being in his presence due to the circumstances-- Shaolin Temple and my somewhat-Buddhist background.

The sounds of evening chants accompanied us as we left the temple. I stepped on the lotus carvings upon the meridian line of the temple, not because I wanted good luck (according to the traditions) but because I'd like to shape myself into a better person, as a lotus plant grows up from within a muddy body of water into a beautiful plant above.

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Karen Wells said...

This has been your most interesting post to date. I loved your imagery about the lotus plant. I sense that you are happy that your fellow travelers experienced the serenity associated with your parents'religion. I also admire you for wanting to better yourself as a person. You have inspired me to lessen anger, greed and stupidity in my life. Thanks. Karen Wells DSA South Africa

Changing Connections said...

Your title pulls me into your post. You engage me even before your first sentence. Your description of a high threshold is so interesting; again, I continue to learn from you.

Your second last paragraph is provocative and rings with an honesty that is compelling and delightful in someone so young. I admire you for striving to be a better person, for avoiding the three "sins," and for understanding the "honor" (a word we Americans take lightly, I think) of your situation.

You are one impressive young woman.

You are so correct in stating that by participating in something so different and unique you learn more. Hands on and on-site learning in a global environment with Discovery will spoil you for any other kind of travel, I suspect. Guess you can rule out at least one career pathway, right?

How do you think the monks view their daily routine? You may find it monotonous, but clearly they seem fit for the life they chose. What makes the difference?

RJ Stangherlin
PA DEN LC Blog Coordinator

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Essential Programs Details

Duration 15 days
When August 4th - 18th, 2009
Focus History/Culture
Martial Arts
Modern/Ancient Architecture