Buddhism

A Day at the Temple

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Sunday morning I was woken up by the sound of chanting monks – and honestly, what could be more wonderful? At first, it was still dark but a few birds had begun singing and I could feel that stirring of a waking day. Then gradually it became lighter and more sounds mixed with the chanting and there was no way I could stay in bed.

I was actually sick and had spent most of Saturday being pretty pathetic – and as I got dressed, I realized that okay, perhaps I’m still sick. But how often are you in mini-Tibet, being woken up by the most beautiful chanting, chanted by the most beautiful Tibetan monks? Right. So off I went to the temple.

I recognized the chant as being the same as at Losar and I now know that it is the Tibetan Chant for World Peace. I’m still not sure if that is the name for the whole prayer or just part of it, the text takes up an entire book and there might be several chants. Before I leave here, I will find out.

The temple was full – well actually the temple itself is pretty small and only holds what seems to be the oldest and most important lamas, the ones leading the chant, a few of them wearing yellow half-moon shaped hats – the rest of the monks and nuns are sitting outside in sections covering three sides of the temple.

After another half an hour or so everybody breaks for about 15 minutes and then assemble downstairs. The downstairs area also has a temple, a very small one, and two monks are now sitting in the doorway of it, facing out (and actually facing across the courtyard and directly into HH. the Dalai Lama’s residence – I imagine him peeking out the window to see what’s going on :)). All the monks sitting as audience on one side and all the nuns on the other, first one monk, the two, then four, is standing in front of the two sitting monks, asking them questions and clapping loudly in their hands while doing so. The tone of their voices is sometimes provocative and mocking and the whole thing seems like some kind of theater.

At this point I’m very much aware that my body is challenged, my head feels very warm and prickly and a couple of times my sight goes black with little stars and I have to sit down and lean up against a pillar. I probably should have been in bed but how often are you in… Right.

Several times the standing monks are being replaced, the two sitting remains the same and it seems they are being tested. I’m doing the best I can to decode this strange phenomena but tone of voice and gestures etc doesn’t always mean the same in different languages so what I see as mean mocking, might be completely harmless.
One of the standing monks, one who have been particularly menacing, is finishing his round and leaves the area for a short while before returning and finding a seat among the monk audience. He looks exhilarated and very satisfied with himself, and in a very innocent and likeable way, like a proud and happy kid, with a bounce in his step and a bubbly grin. The reality of this performance is definitely something other than just mocking.

After a while I’m deciding that maybe I should go get some rest, it would be horribly embarrassing to lose conscience right in front of all the holiness, not to mention right outside the lama’s windows. So I leave and on the way I ask one of the security guards what is going on. He explains that it is in fact a test, he calls it mind wash. The monks are practicing and debating and every clap marks a question. His English was not the best and my sharpness not the sharpest so I will find out more – but I have read about the debates, I just didn’t know they looked like this.

On the way back I stop at my favorite cafe, OneTwo Cafe, for some breakfast and then back to bed for a few hours. The cafe is almost exactly between my room and the temple, it’s the nicest Tibetan girls who run it, the food is great and it’s overlooking the square right in front of the temple so there’s always life to watch. The yellow building in the back is the temple. Around noon there is chanting again and I feel better and so I head back to the temple.

I have never considered myself a chanting kind of person. I mean, I can see the purpose of it and I can even enjoy it once in a while but it has never been my choice of devotional expression. But this chant for world peace.. It goes straight into the deepest of my heart and it makes every cell in my body vibrate in the most beautiful way. Well, I guess I can’t really explain it but the effect is overwhelmingly powerful and makes me feel that if I could just sit and listen (at least until I learn the words myself), I would be happy – nothing more in life would be necessary. And that’s a pretty powerful feeling. I wonder what it would take to convince the monks to come back to Denmark with me…

Well, okay so anyway – for the next hours I’m sitting there outside the temple, surrounded by monks and nuns and chanting, being happy, contemplating life. There is little breaks here and there, tea and bread is being passed around, there is chatting and laughing, and just like at Losar, the chanting never stops, the intent remains strong. The energy being accumulated on a day like this must be profound and I can only imagine how far it reaches or how astonishing it must look through the eyes of a clairvoyant.

So Sunday was wonderful and I went to bed feeling grateful and peaceful and connected with myself, my heart and the whole universe – just how it is supposed to be.

Contemplating Impermanence

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Facing the challenges of letting go of the past while being immersed in Buddhist wisdom naturally inspires some elaborate thinking..

Why are we holding on – and what exactly is it we’re holding on to? To the illusion of belonging somewhere or with someone? To a false sense of identity? To some pseudo security in our own ability to control anything? Well, all of the above probably.

But doesn’t it seem just a bit silly when we know (at least if we really think about it and are honest to ourselves) that it’s pointless, that it brings us only stress and sorrows and that it stands in our way of true freedom? Yes, that was a rhetorical question because the answer is obviously “DUH!”

So why is it so freaking hard?! I mean, everything is changing all the time. And so it should. Imagine a world gone completely stale and moldy and, even worse, predictable. Yuck!

So better learn to embrace change, to be safe in change.

I’m actually not a complete beginner in this area but still the layers keep peeling and the complexity of the challenge increases and I find myself trying harder. To comprehend and integrate. Reassess and proceed.

Okay, so how does it work.. Like, really work… I guess first of all, I need more self observance. And then every time I notice attachment, I let go. Easy, right? Apparently, not really. I’ve come to the realization that I need to dig deeper, to get to the bottom of this letting go business. Not just mentally understand it or grasp the general idea of it. I’m talking about fully embracing the nature of impermanence.

I feel pretty certain that this task is not something I’ll be able to complete rapidly and I also suspect that I would do better with a teacher.. I must admit, right now I have a strong urge to shave my head and join the nunnery, fully commit to the process. I’ll start with the less extreme approach though and see how that goes.

And so I’m contemplating impermanence.

Autobiography in Five Chapters

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I’m reading The Tibetan Book of Living & Dying. It’s a great book so far and it makes so much sense that I’m reading it now, surrounded by Tibetans, looking over at Dalai Lama’s Temple.

In the beginning of the book, Sogyal Rinpoche is talking about impermanence, how to embrace change and not be a slave to habits (very short description).

I’m not sure if this poem is by Nyoshul Khenpo but nevertheless, it’s wonderful!

 

Autobiography in Five Chapters

 

1)

I walk down the street

There’s a deep hole in the sidewalk

I fall in

I am lost… I am hopeless

It isn’t my fault

It takes forever to find a way out

2)

I walk down the same street

There’s a deep hole in the sidewalk

I pretend I don’t see it

I fall in again

I can’t believe I’m in the same place

But it isn’t my fault

It still takes a long time to get out

3)

I walk down the same street

There’s a deep hole in the sidewalk

I see it is there

I still fall in… It’s a habit

My eyes are open

I know where I am

It is my fault

I get out immediately

4)

I walk down the same street

There’s a deep hole in the sidewalk

I walk around it

5)

I walk down another street.

Love it :)