Friday, April 29, 2011

Dana Trip To Vihara Buddha Gotama

Ever heard to the place called Temoh?

Prior to this trip, I have never heard of the name of this remote town and I bet it sounds unfamiliar to most people as well. Vihara Buddha Gotama is a monastery located in the small town of Temoh, which sits in between Tapah and Kampar in Perak. It was founded more than a decade ago and its main purpose is for the study, teaching, practice and propagation of the Buddha's discourses (suttas), monastic discipline (vinaya), and meditation, according to the original teachings of the Buddha.

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The multi-purpose building (sala) for daily activities of meditation, Dhamma-Vinaya study, eating on the ground floor, while four dormitories, office, 
general library and Sangha room occupy the first floor.

There was a trip organised by the devotees of Taiping Bodhi Lanka Ram Buddhist Temple to this monastery last month, and my Mom asked me if I wanted to join this trip. As I was still in the middle of my spring break, I decided to accompany her to this one-day dāna trip.

Just in case you are wondering, dāna is a Pāli word, which refers to the act of giving. In Buddhism, it is also the practice of cultivating generosity. Ultimately, the practice culminates in one of the perfections (pāramitā): the perfection of giving (dāna-pāramitā). This can be characterized by unattached and unconditional generosity, giving and letting go (from Wikipedia)
.

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Devotees arranging the food the brought on the tables, as offerings to the monk.

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It is something like a potluck event, and food offering to the monk is one of the many ways of doing dāna.

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Venerable Dhammavuddho Thero, the founder abbot of Vihara Buddha Gotama. He is more fondly known as Bhante Hye, and he speaks fluent English, Mandarin, Hokkien, Thai, and a few other languages. His interesting Dhamma talk lasted for almost an hour but everyone wished he could talk more.

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A formal act of offering food to the monk is done by placing into his hands every item to be consumed because it is an offense for the monk to touch, let alone consume food and drinks, which have not been offered. However, when there are too much food on the table, it is common for the monk and devotees to hold on the table as a short-cut method haha!

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The monk will then walk around the table and fill his bowl for his meal to be consumed before noon. The rest of the food will be left
for the devotees to finish them up.

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Material things like food, medicines, flowers, incense, candles, and any other items useful for their lives, may also be formally offered 
to the monk with both hands.

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It is followed by monks (bhikkhus and samaneras), nuns (maechees or anagarinis) to take the food on the table.

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Finally, it is the time for the devotees to enjoy the remaining food with everyone.

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We were later taken to tour around the monastery by Bhante Hye. There are currently nine kutis or huts for monks, including the abbot's.

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The roof of kuti #4 was renovated to a concrete flat roof to counter the termite problem.

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Our tour was led by the dogs from the monastery. Those dogs were like the tour guide that always made sure they lead the group around the monastery.

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A kuti, which is still under renovation work.

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This dana trip is part of the activity for the Sunday Dhamma School kids. That is why you can spot so many kids around.

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A view from the roof of one of the kuti. Those are fish ponds and the rest are mainly oil palm estates.

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A man-made artificial nest for murai batu (white rumped shama) to lay eggs on. Apparently, that species of bird has high value in the market.

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Another view from the top of the monastery, from the opposite direction.

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A group photo with everyone before we left the monastery.

Bhante Hye initially wanted to bring us to a nearby waterfall, but due to time constraint, that plan never materialised. 

By the way, our dana trip was led by the current resident monk of the Bodhi Lanka Ram temple. One interesting fact is that both of them used to be engineers. Bhante Hye worked for the Public Works Department as an electrical engineer for twelve years before renouncing home life, while Bhante Bodhi is a Mechanical Engineering degree holder. It makes me wonder, if I will follow their footsteps one day lol!

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Perak Tong or Perak Cave Temple, considered as one of the best cave temple in the country.

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The beautifully decorated pavilion and a landscaped flower garden and with a fish pond in front of the temple
is one of the major attractions of this temple.

After we left the monastery in Temoh, the group drove northwards toward Ipoh to visit several popular cave temples. Our first stop took us to Perak Tong, a cave temple that has received international recognition as one of the major tourist attractions in Ipoh, attracting visitors from all over the world. 

The temple was discovered in 1926 and houses a Chinese Buddhist temple within a natural limestone hill.

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A 40 feet (12.8 meter) tall Buddha statue greets visitor as they enter the temple.

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The inner part of the cave has beautiful stalagmites and stalactites formed in various shapes naturally. These natural limestone wonders
are decorated with over forty statues of deities.

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Two of the four deities. I will always remember the time when Mich's landlord's Dad used to tell me that they are the Asian version of Ninja Turtles lol!

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There are also colourful paintings and calligraphic writings about the story of Buddha, including some by the founder himself.

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There is a staircase of 385 steps, which takes visitors right to the top of the limestone hill, where one can have a wonderful
overall view of Ipoh city and its surroundings.

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Spelling errors don't happen in China and Japan only. It happens in Ipoh too haha!

I decided to climb all the way to the peak but unfortunately, I was among those who got tricked and didn't manage to get to the spot where I can get the great view of Ipoh. For those who plans to do the climbing next time, here is a useful tip. In order to get to the "real" peak, you will have to climb through the steps of a yellow building at the halfway, which people mistaken it as the peak. That is followed by another climb up a steep staircase until you reach a hut. I went up to that point but saw nothing interesting, hence I came down, which was a big mistake.

Upon reaching that hut, you gotta continue walking down a slope and another short climb will follow before you finally arrive at the highest peak, where you get to reveal a wonderful view of the surrounding countryside. A safety tip to remember is that the steps to the peak closes at four in the evening for safety purposes. Besides, there are bunches of wild monkeys along the steep steps to the peak and  although it is fun, it could also be a danger for visitors.

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The halfway point to the peak. Do not stop here but continue walking up the staircases up a yellow building to get to the real peak.

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The view from the top of the yellow building. The climb is not the end, because there is another series of steep steps to go.

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This is halfway through the steep steps. The view isn't as nice as what you ill get from the highest peak.

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Made a small donation for the renovation works of the temple and had my name written on the roof tile.

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I notice most public toilet in Malaysia now charges thirty cents per entry, but this toilet still stick to the old price. But to pay to use the toilet
in a temple is somehow quite amusing, don't you think so?

From Perak Tong, we moved to Guan Yin Tong or the Goddess of Mercy cave temple in Gunung Rapat. The temple is located at the edge of a vertical rainforest and limestone hill. The limestone hill here houses the most number of cave temples in Ipoh. There are approximately 75 statues of Guan Yin in the temple.

One of the main features of this temple is the "wishing tree". It is designed similar to the famous wishing tree in Hong Kong. This 12.16 meter tall tree is said to carry the spirit of a Tibetan deity who can grant wishes. Devotees can write their wishes on red and yellow josspaper tied to an orange and throw them up to hang on the tree. If it hangs on the tree successfully, the wishes will come true. It is believed that the higher it is hung, the better the chances of the wishes coming true. However, if you are not successful within three throwing attempts, it would mean that your wish is too greedy haha!

So, avoid making wishes like hoping to marry a pretty girl within a year, or scoring 20A1s in your SPM because I think your oranges will never ever land on the branch no matter how many times you try, unless you wanna play cheat and use a ladder haha wtf!

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This temple is comparatively smaller than Perak Tong, but it is still worth a visit.

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Paintings of Guan Yin on the limestone wall.

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Many types of statues of the deities. This one on the right represents someone who is "open-hearted" (开心).

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Beautiful red lanterns hanging from the roof of the cave to brighten up the place.

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That is the wishing tree I mentioned.

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Posing with the rabbit statue on a rabbit's year. No prize for guessing my zodiac sign.

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Mom with the rest of the same-group-age members lol! One of them, Puan Boh (third from left) was my Kajian Tempatan teacher during my primary years.

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This was taken in front of a "coffee shop" that is used as a hut for visitor to take a rest.

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A water feature, designed to look like a Japanese wishing fountain. People usually make their wish while steeping on the stones from one end to the other.

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Wishing bells tied to a wooden pole, wishing for peace (hei-an or 平安).

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Golden statues of guan Yin with some white bangau. Those bangau are fake one, of course lol!

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Some of the kids from the Sunday Dhamma School who posed for a photo from the staircase.

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Finally, a group photo with Bhante Bodhi before we call it a day.

Thank you for reading. Sādhu! Sādhu! Sādhu!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Guan Yin's Birthday

This is gonna be another entry about birthday. But no worries, I have had enough entries on my birthday this year. It was someone else's birthday this time. Roughly one month back, it was Guan Yin's birthday. My grandma told me that she will be going to the temple on that day. Since I was still having my spring holiday back then, I thought why not I accompany her to the temple and at the same time, make some offering to the Goddess of Mercy.

Just before you get me wrongly, Guan Yin isn't the name of my friend haha!

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Grandma buying some traditional cakes outside the temple. Common cakes are like ang koo (red glutinous rice cake), mee koo (red coloured bun) 
and huat kuih (prosperous cakes).

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And also a few stalks of chrysanthemum flowers as offerings for the Goddess of Mercy.

Guanyin is the Chinese name for Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva. However, folk traditions in China and other East Asian countries have added many distinctive characteristics and legends. Avalokiteśvara was originally depicted as a male Bodhisattva, and therefore wears chest-revealing clothing and may even sport a moustache. Although this bare-chested and moustached depiction still exists in the Far East, Guanyin is more often depicted as a woman in modern times. Additionally, some people believe that Guanyin is both man and woman (or perhaps neither). (from Wikipedia)

Just a short fact about Guan Yin, which I copied and pasted from Wikipedia haha wtf! Oppps, silap. I shouldn't swear in this entry lol!

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Devotees had filled the temple since early in the morning to perform their prayers and make their offerings to the Goddess of Mercy on her birthday.

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Devotees came to seek blessing, good health, longevity, away from suffering and everything that devotees can think of in their prayers.

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Huge incense coils hanging from the ceiling.

I went to pick up both of my grandmas on that morning before we head to the Guan Yin temple near Simpang, which is just about ten minutes away from my house, by car.

One interesting fact about Guan Yin's birthday is that it is celebrated three times a year - on the nineteenth day of the second, sixth and ninth lunar month. Don't ask me why, because when I posed the same question to my grandma, she just gave me a smile, which indicated that she didn't know the reason either haha!

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The main prayer hall inside the Guan Yin temple. A statue of the Laughing Buddha can be spotted on the front altar.

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The Guan Yin statue inside the temple. On the table are the common offerings like the pink peach cake (仙桃).

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Devotees came in big number with offerings such as lighted lotus candles, lamps, joss sticks, flowers, fruits, cakes and other dry food such as rice, sugar and bihun.

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Another goddess, whom my Mom calls it "chu seh niao niao" (recitation needed lol!), which is known as the fertility goddess capable of granting children. 

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It is common to see devotees light up the lotus-shaped candles as they offer their prayers. The act of offering light represents the light of wisdom.

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Various types of gold paper called "kim", which means "gold" to the Goddess.

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The gold and coloured papers are folded and spread out to be burned as offerings to the Goddess of Mercy for good luck and fortune.

Most of the devotees usually choose to go on a strict vegetarian diet to cleanse themselves on the holy day. Volunteers will come to the temple early in the morning and work together to prepare the food for the devotees. Common dishes served are fried noodles, porridge, and fried koey teow. I wanted to go on vegetarian on that day too, but I think it only lasted half day because I think I mistakenly ter-ate some non-vegetarian stuff haha wtf!

My Mom used to tell me that there is one section in this temple where they display paintings of how it is like in the hell.

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Yan Wang, the judge of the dead, the judge of the underworld and passes judgment on all the dead. He always appears in a male form, and his minions include a judge who holds in his hands a brush and a book listing every soul and the allotted death date for every life.

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Men or women who committed misdeeds (such as ill-treated their parents, ascetics, holy persons and elders) will be sentenced to torture and/or miserable future lives. Yanluo divided Diyu (hell) into ten levels or courts each ruled by a Yama King, such as Chu Jiang who ruled the court reserved for thieves and murderers.

Looking at those paintings certainly sent shivers down my spine. It is a good and timely reminder for everyone that we should avoid from doing misdeeds in our life and create bad karma, to avoid facing the consequences in our after life.

At the temple, I also saw my grandaunt and third uncle, who were there to offer their prayers too. It has been years since I last seen them and it was a great coincidence that I saw them at the temple, of so many places. After my grandmas and I had performed our prayers and did our offerings, we left the temple. But before leaving, a picture of us in front of the Guan Yin temple.

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With the two super ladies in my life.

There is a reason why I didn't stand straight and you guys should know why, don't you haha!