Sitting in the back of a taxi, gripping the door handle as we plunge into the next curve, I wonder what am I trying to prove. A middle-age, white woman by herself in Hong Kong. Traveling to see the Po Lin Monastery and the Big Buddha.
Then we round a corner and I see our path around the side of the mountain. The ocean spreads out beneath our feet and I know why I came.
To step out of my comfortable life and experience more…of Life.
This trip was a bit impulsive. Traveling to the other side of the world should not be taken lightly, but I have been bitten by the travel bug. It produces illogical impulses that prompt you to say “Yes!” to invitations to attend a Bali retreat.
And that’s how I find myself in Hong Kong, on a short stay before I fly to Bali.
The taxi driver is kind and speaks a bit of English, but he’s busy driving on the narrow, two land road attached by a sliver of land to the mountainside. I keep repeating my favorite mantra, “I am safe. I am forgiven. I am loved. I am love.” These words calm my anxious mind and I surrender to the moment.
We drive through several villages, colorful bits of clothes fluttering the wind from the apartments that line the road. Signs in Chinese and English, Coca-Cola logos on every storefront. The world has shrunk when the logo of an American company appears even in a remote village on Lantau Island.
When we reach our destination, the driver points the way to the Monastery and waves good bye. I realize that I am alone and a long way from home.
The Big Buddha
The wide walk up to the grounds of the Monastery are completely empty. As I turn a corner, the Buddha appears, shrouded in clouds and mist.
The gates do not open until 10:00 a.m., so I had two hours to enjoy the Monastery. Big Buddha would still be there.
As I continued to walk deeper into the grounds of the Monastery, several people passed me, hurrying toward a destination in front of us. They were soon followed by more men and women, all in a rush to be somewhere.
Curious, I followed them to an inner courtyard surrounded by small temples. A larger one dominated one end, and there were three bowls set at the base of the stone steps. Inside each bowl was a Buddha statute. As I stood back and watched, every person who was in such a rush, paused at each bowl, bowed and then ladled the Buddha three times in a ritualistic manner.
After the last person finished, I walked up to read the sign that explained this practice. The ritual of washing each statute was symbolic of being washed.
As I was deciding what to do next, a low, deep noise seemed to rise up behind this temple. Since more people were going around this building to something on the other side, I decided to follow.
The noise became chanting, punctuated by gongs and chimes. I soon learned it was the daily ceremony inside the Grand Hall of Ten Thousand Buddhas.
Out of respect for the Monastery, I did not take a picture of the hall. Words cannot describe the majesty of this space. I will try to give you a sense of what I experienced.
Golden light shone from the five Dhyani Buddhas, which were located along the back of the hall. People were seated in rows, chanting with the monks and repeating their words. The walls were carved in small squares, each containing a Buddha statute. Golden pillars supported the ceiling, which was elaborately painted in a rainbow of colors.
There were two trees with benches around them, just outside the Grand Hall. I sat down and let the chanting and energy wash over me. My eyes closed and I felt myself open to the moment.
And I had not even seen the Big Buddha yet!
Soon it was time to walk up the 200+ steps to the statute. At the top, a round plaza surrounds the statute and provides a great view of the harbor.
There is a museum inside with scenes depicting the Buddha’s life. What I found fascinating was the commemoration of the statute. This is part of the speech that was given at that time.
I also walked on the Wisdom Trail. By now, the humidity and heat made the day steamy, but I wanted to see this part of the grounds. It was worth the trip.
Each of these wooden poles contains a portion of the “Heart Sutra,” described below. There are 38 poles, arranged in the shape of the infinity sign.
It was time to leave the Monastery. Big Buddha was not changed by my visit, but I certainly was different. A new sense of freedom, purpose and gratitude became my mantle as I returned to my hotel.
It’s just another step in the Heart Dance!