Chengdu ... for Chinese New Years day - the year of the Tiger. I had just arrived and visited with the people hosting me and we got to take a look at the first Buddhist temple I had seen since arriving in China on the 5th of February, now it was the 14th. Many very devoted people were flooding in and out of the Manjushri Temple. I wasn't in robes during my time in China or I would have got a free pass into the temple, instead I needed a ticket to get in - happy though to support a monastery.
With help from the local monk and my friends i managed to locate this statue of Ananda amongst the collection of the 16 Arhats they had. The text in his hand seems to indicate that it was "thus have I heard ... " himself. There was also a very renowned lion form of Manjushri painted on a wooden wall which had given various miraculous indications during the cultural revolution, enough to gain the respect of the locals and protect this temple from being the focus of too much detrimental attention. I couldn't take a photo but there was a palpable feeling of holiness. Its hard to find images of lion form Manjushri on the Internet, but apparently his is often in this form. Sometimes Manjushri is with a lion.
Once we went through a few more shrines within the temple a courtyard at the rear was arranged with tables where everyone could offer lamps and incense. I was really happy to participate and put the name of a very nice sponsor of my hosts who was ill. Here is a picture of the area where lamps were offered - very organised it was.
Near the end of the trip I was told the same lady I offered a lamp for released creatures into freedom to offer for my benefit when I had become quite ill. I don't know if she knew I made an offering for but anyway, its great to be part of these traditional practice on either the giving or the receiving side.
I wanted to get a souvenir from this monastery and of course I have to admit being quite fond of buying things from time to time. I ended up with a huge box of incense, these spiral forms which can apparently burn for 24 hours. I burned a couple over the next weeks and sent the rest home in the mail. It was not so different from a Tibetan style incense, no stick, just all incense. I look forward to making many day long offerings of sweet smoke at home. Perhaps the topic of a future blog entry.
I began my path taking refuge with a Chinese master and practicing in a Taiwanese temple in Australia. So for me it was as familiar as it was different to the Tibetan traditional representations and architecture I have spent the most time appreciating. Most of all being in this part of the world for real and not just forming opinions based on the fear mongering news media helped me feel closeness to the people of China who make up such a large part of our world. Having a great freind to translate and show me around was the most special part of my time.
Next time I will share from my visit to Leshan and Mt Emei - the mountain of Samanthabadra that a freind recommended I visit.
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