The big hall was filled with people, shoes off at the door, some bowing and raising their joined hands together three times as they entered acknowledging the huge golden Buddha statue that dominated the opposite wall.
Long low wooden benches lined each end of the building and in the middle, at slightly higher benches with tables covered in cloth and bearing gold water jugs, gong stands, food and drink offerings, scriptures and other special things, sat three monks. There was room for more.
The people sat in silence, sometimes with their eyes shut, sometimes with their hands clasped.
The monks chanted in deep, droning, harmonious tones, occasionally creating a crescendo with volume, pace, rattles and bells…. Then silence. The people would respond together. The chanting would resume again.
The monks in their rich red robes, heads shaven,would occasionally rifle through handwritten requests people had submitted in the hope of some assistance. Perhaps some of the peaking calls related to those.
The temple’s walls, pillars and high ceilings were crowded with brightly coloured narrative reliefs filled with quirky characters and animals telling, without words, the stories and teachings of Buddha. A picture of the 14th Dalai Lama was on a pedestal at Buddha’s left knee and at his opposite knee in a standing glass case was one of the Dalai Lama’s robes – perhaps one he wore when visiting.
I joined the rows of people. The chanting started at 9 a.m. and was still going as I quietly made my exit after 10 a.m. It was an every day event.
Sitting in silence for one hour with your phone off and unable to do anything but listen, look and ponder is an amazing experience. We don’t do it often enough.
The monks’ chants echo the same chants of monks from over 2000 years ago. The giant Buddha sits crosslegged on a lotus flower with a kind expression of absolute calm.
We are small. The Universe is boundless. In the scheme of breathing in and out, whether I go to Ukraine or Turkey next, whether I stay another day here or not, whether I risk “everything” to try to live a new way of life or whether I return to the secure life I know, whether I am a success or a failure, liked or disliked, … the breath still moves in and out and the chanting still goes on.
Even after the temples have all been destroyed, as they were here, the chanting still goes on. Breathing still goes on.
The “monkey mind” jumps, thrashes, races, stalls…despairs and rejoices in turn…. but gradually you become the calm observer. Gradually you know.
Buddha says: Let go of all attachments. Let go of all things that the ego clings to. They do not bring happiness.
Just breathe. Just be. All is well.
A peaceful start to the day.