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Published: April 25th 2011
Today some of my friends and I took a trip to Wenshu Monastery, a local Buddhist temple and monastery here in Chengdu. The monastery has been around for a little over 1500 years. Besides the beautiful temple buildings, it contains nearly 300 Buddha statues made of everything from wood to jade. Although not all of them were visible for the public, the ones they did have on display were impressive and beautiful. The grounds of the monastery itself were incredible, full of lush gardens and divinely inspired architecture. As before with the Daoist temples, the atmosphere was one of calm and peace, but with a different “flavor” to that of the Daoist temples I have been visiting. This monastery was more than just a tourist attraction, but actually a functioning monastery complete with classrooms, dining halls, and of course monks. After strolling through the grounds for a little while, I found myself alone in a large meditation hall, complete with dozens of meditation pillows set up across the floor. The hall was empty, silent, and inviting, so I decided to sit and meditate for a while. Every now and again I would hear the rustlings and footsteps of other visitors entering
and exiting the hall, but I was able to maintain my focus, and attempt to still myself within. Once again I was living out a long time dream of mine, only instead of climbing a Daoist mountain, this time I was sitting and meditating in a real Buddhist monastery. While the grin on my face was subtle, the one in my heart was immense. After sitting in meditation for about 30 minutes, I gave thanks to the temple and decided to continue on my way through the monastery grounds. I didn’t think the day could get any better, but once again the universe had something very special in store for me. I came across a small wooden structure with a staircase leading down underground, with the faint sounds of chanting rising up from below. I didn’t see any noticeable signs telling me not to enter, so I decided to venture down the staircase to see what I might find. Now begins the part of my story that I still cant believe. As I descended the staircase, I felt like I was transported into an Indiana Jones movie. Before me was a large stone hallway, with images carved on either sides of the walls, seemingly telling a story of some kind. I continued down the hallway and turned the corner to find myself in a large foyer of sorts, and to my left a small marble staircase led up to one of the most amazing sights I have ever beheld. At the opposite end of another large room sat a golden Buddha, that must have been about 7-8 feet tall, sitting in meditation posture. There are no words to describe what I was looking at, but it was as if the statue itself was glowing, emitting it’s own golden light that filled the room. Along the sides of the room were small alcoves, almost like rows of bookshelves carved out of marble, with golden engraved placards upon them. It was then that I realized where I was. I had somehow found my way to the inner sanctum of the monastery, where the ashes and relics of all the past monks of the monastery were kept! I knelt down on one of the pillows in front of the golden Buddha and gave thanks to the divine within each one of us, grateful for this experience I was being blessed with. Just seconds after I had finished giving thanks in my mind, I heard a voice call out from behind me, “No!” I turned to see an unhappy looking Chinese man motioning at me to get out. It seems I was not supposed to be here, and he wanted me to leave right away. He took a seat in a chair near the entrance to the room of the golden Buddha. He was obviously the guard of this room, and must have been away doing something when I had entered. I silently left the room and made my way back up to the surface, somewhat in a daze at where I had just been and what I had just experienced. I realized that although the guard had not wanted me there, the universe had allowed me a moment with the golden Buddha in a place that I am sure very very few laypeople ever get to see, and even fewer foreigners at that. I spent the next 20 minutes or so wandering around the monastery in somewhat of a haze, in disbelief at what I had just experienced. Never in my wildest dreams had I thought I would find myself in the secret underground reliquary of a Buddhist temple, but sure enough, it had really happened. Eventually I made my way to the tea-house where I found my friends enjoying some tea and playing cards. I joined them for some delicious tea, savoring every sip, and replaying my recent experience over and over again in my mind. With the utmost humility and gratitude I give thanks to the divine energies that granted me my time with the golden Buddha, and I give thanks to the golden Buddhas within each and every one of us as well.
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