Flashback: 2007, Fall semester. I took a Chinese Civilisation course. Very enlightening in of itself to learn about my cultural heritage and the historical phenomena which has shaped China into the country it is today. My 3 favourite philosophies/religions that we learnt about (and coincidentally, really the main three with which most Chinese will identify) were Daoism (sometimes spelled Taoism but that just looks really odd to me because phonetically it makes no sense), Confucianism and Buddhism.
In order to better understand Buddhism, we do that awesome thing that college really doesn’t pay enough attention to: FIELD TRIP. Our whole class visited a Buddhist temple in Hacienda Heights, a city East of Los Angeles (near the “real chinatowns” where Asian people live like Monterey Park, San Gabriel and Alhambra, because not many really live in Chinatown in Downtown LA) called Hsi Lai Temple. It’s a very beautiful temple and one of the largest in all of Southern California.
We participated in a small prayer session and then went around the temple. In fact, this temple was made up of several extremely large buildings where you can go pray and mediate, classrooms, alters, and large outdoor areas for you to sit and reflect on life or enjoy the simple beauty.
Must admit, the feng shui of the whole complex is very good. There is a serene calmness. The architects designed the whole temple extremely well. You can walk a lot time and not be disturbed by anybody. Or you can find yourself in a room rich with scriptures and buddhas for you to pray and be closer to your faith. One thing I really liked was the quietness. It was nice to get off the Los Angeles freeway (which is ALWAYS stressful) and walk in to find people such as your and me as well as monks dressed in their robes, quietly pondering life.
Of course, there is a lot of entertainment if pondering and thinking is the last thing you want to do. I mean it’s strictly speaking not “entertainment”. However, just looking at some of their statues, they entertain me a lot!
And at the end, if after all that walking and Nirvana-seeking makes you hungry, you can go to the food hall and eat a vegetarian buffet (yup all your can eat, but of course you must at least pretend to be austere so you don’t stand out by stuffing your face…you are in a temple after all). All the food was very delicious and of course not only free of meat but also free of junky stuff like fried foods, naturally. And all they ask is a $5 donation to cover their costs.
Even if you’re not religious (as I am not), it was a nice experience to go to this temple. Change things up a little bit. After all the Hollywood glitz, glamour and food (let’s me honest, my “travel blog” is more like 9 parts food and 1 part travel), I got tired and wanted a more profound experience.
And don’t worry they’re not preachy at all (one thing I really like about Buddhist temples vs. churches etc.). They just let you be. And often that’s exactly what you (I) want.
So next time you feel like a lonely lost soul (happens A LOT in the City of Angels, ironic, right?) what will you do to find inner peace?
A (to the Q in the title): much meditation and learning…And perhaps a lot of stretching, seems to be a common theme in the statues I saw.