-Zen Master Daehaeng
"Fixed ideas are like a wisp of cloud or smoke, but nonetheless people find themselves blocked or captured by these. You would laugh if you saw someone tripped by a cloud, or if someone claimed that they were imprisoned by the air. But, in fact, people are endlessly being trapped by things no more substantial than air or clouds. They make a wall with their mind, and then it imprisons them. Inherently, there is no wall or anything to trip over. These things are mirages they've created from the thoughts they gave rise to. Do not insist upon your own fixed ideas. Your persistence is your own narrow mind. If your mind is broad, it can easily embrace the entire world. However, if your mind is narrow, even a needle cannot enter. You have to keep letting go of your stubbornness, and always be deeply respectful of all life and things. This is returning to and relying upon the Buddha-Dharma. This is also how to become a free person. Always be humble. Be humble. The fragrance of your broad and generous mind will warm others' hearts."
-Zen Master Daehaeng
-Zen Master Daehaeng
I sat alone on a block of stone
On the banks of the Ganges.
Mother Ganges blessed me.
I meditated on OM and its meaning–
The Word that is the symbol of Brahman.
The little personality was lost.
The mortal limit of the self was loosened.
But there was infinite extension.
I entered into the Nameless beyond;
I realized the unity of bliss.
No words can describe the thrill of joy,
The mystic experiences,
The supreme and divine height of felicity!
The little “I” fused into the incandescent brilliance.
Two become one now,
It was all Tejomaya Ananda–
One mass of transcendental light bliss.
- Sri Swami Sivananda
Exactly a week ago I had the opportunity to visit The Fo Guang Shan Buddha Memorial Center in Kaohsiung City, Taiwan on our celebratory moon day off. I took a fair amount of pictures as you can see. Stunning, peaceful, massive, are just a few words that come to mind in remembrance. However, I couldn't help but take amusement in the fact there was a Starbucks in the main pavilion. Buddha likes his coffee too! If ever in Taiwan this place is a must see for your travel list. The complex stretches out beyond the main entrance. Be prepared to do a fair share of walking. I enjoyed this fact. In each pagoda there were various Buddhist themes to take in or little shops to wonder around. I really appreciated the fact the center catered to people of all ages, especially families. There is even a side area for children to enjoy. Through out the center the nuns hosted many of the various sites on the grounds. I didn't see any monks though. Not sure why that is. Below I have a further description posted in regards to the site.
From the brochure:
"The Buddha Memorial Center, situated at Dashu District, Kaohsiung City, is built on 100 hectares of land, and houses the Buddha's tooth relic that was presented to Venerable Master Hsing Yun by the Tibetan Lama, Kunga Dorje Rinpoche, who had kept the relic in his safekeeping for 30 years. The Kunga Dorje Rinpoche was touched by the efforts of Fo Guang Shan, an active propagation center of Humanistic Buddhism. Construction of the Buddha Memorial Center commenced in 2003 and took nine years to complete. The building is made possible with the support of thousands of temples and millions on benefactores. It comprises eight pagodas in the front, a big Buddha stature in the rear, the Vulture Peak in the south, and the Jetvana Grove in the north. It encompasses traditional and modern features which fulfills the functional needs of culture, education, and spiritual practice.
The main buildings are laid out along a central axis from east to west in the following order: the Front Hall, the Eight Pagadas, the Grand Photo Terrace, the Bodhi Wisdom Concourse, The Main Hall and the Fo Guang Big Buddha.
Like a Buddhist university, the Buddha Memorial Center aims to offer spiritual refreshment and bring harmony to society by means of culture and art."
Taiwanese Hot Pot!!!!
Ironically, my beautiful hosts took me to a lovely restaurant just outside Chaiyi with a Scandinavian theme to the decor over a week ago. The food? Taiwanese. Thankfully, haha. In Asia, I often get overwhelmed with the depth and length of options available when it comes to food. Not only was there hot pot (one of my favs!) there were like 50 different types of hot pot I could choose from. What is hot pot? Well, it's like the best thing ever. Seriously. You get your broth over a potable flame and an array of ingredients to make a soup right at your table, usually served with a special sauce and rice. If you're a meat eater there is a wide range of options when it comes to that as well as seafood. Obviously, a copious range of vegetables are always on hand. I went with the vegetarian option offering a soy milk based broth. Delicious. The thing I love about hot pot is, it is not only tasty but also entertaining. There is something gratifying about having your veggies simmer in a broth right in front of you!
I end with this. Only in Taiwan . . . I'm taking one of these things home with me! Muahahahahha! Who wants one?!
"Go to your fears, sit with them, stare at them. Your fears are your friend, their only job is to show you undeveloped parts of yourself that you need to cultivate to live a happy life. The more you do the things you're most afraid of doing the more life opens up. Embrace your fears and your fears will embrace you." - Jackson Kiddard
Fear. It's a real thing. During my 2009 trip to Mysore, India I was hit by a speeding motorcycle taking a turn onto a cross street driving a motoscooter. I flew off the bike making an arch. I went up, up, up, and then down. The angle at which I was launched was my saving grace. Somehow, I made it out with only a few lacerations on my feet, ankles and hands. I still to this day feel other powers were at work to have walked away from the experience minimally injured. However, the crunching sound of metal hitting on metal and the speed and velocity at which everything happened stayed with me long after. Moments can quickly change with little or no warning.
When I left India I had the obvious prémonition that I would never get back on a motorbike. Hence, the following year, back in Mysore, I became the worst backseat passenger known to man. I was jumpy, hyperaware and everything and everyone on the road was a threat. Three trips back to Mysore since then and I have never drove a scooter.
Now in Taiwan, I've been forced to get back on a motorbike. Believe me, if it weren't for the necessity I would have been absolutely fine not getting on one for the rest of my days. Then again, I have been allowing past experiences to define the present.
I know plenty of people who refuse to get up on a motorbike, especially in India, where pure chaos is the order of the day on the streets. Somehow it works and often you're left thinking, how?! In my case, I know I was avoiding. A rational fear, yes, but avoiding nonetheless. Why not relinquish the fact that, yes, I'm scared shitless, but life is too short to be bound by a fear from one experience. Taiwan is a good place to dip my toe back in. The roads are a bit chaotic, but not as nearly as chaotic as in India. A good practice ground.
Once I gathered up the courage to hop back on a motorscooter, I puttered down the road, being passed up by old ladies. To my amusement I couldn't help but giggle at the crazy slow pace I was going. Soon it got boring. I started to relax.
Driving in Taiwan there is a different flow. Gosh, in Sweden it doesn't get much more organized. Bland, haha. It's like you have to get in touch with a different internal rhythm. Then if you compare it to India you have all the animals to contend with, haha. Let me just say it never gets boring. My senses come alive in a way that can go on auto-pilot at home. These contrasts bring another experience into my realm. The relief that comes when crossing through a barrier is pure exhilaration.
I'm glad I went through with it.
Day 5 in Taiwan. Hot and humid. I dare say it is hotter here at the moment versus KL. This go around I feel like I'm acclimating while taking the act of hydration seriously. Sweating during practice isn't an issue, obviously. Teaching, well, I sweat during that too. My last visit, for various reasons, I was thrown way out of balance and the raging heat didn't help matters. Mentally, I was in a different phase, now upon my return I feel more at ease and calm. What a difference a few years makes. Also, the fact of simply appreciating everything more, and not being so embroiled in what is out of my control. Maturity is another word for it, haha. It is always a hope that as the years go by I grow and center.
The students here are gracious and attentive. There is really no better word to describe it. Observing sincere willingness and the enthusiasm to learn can be quite infectious for a teacher. No matter what country, I can appreciate the various qualities that are brought forward. In my experience teaching yoga is about energy exchange. The synergy that takes place is often out of my control and many times I am lead by it. Or maybe a better way to describe it being a conduit of sorts. The intuitive guidance that comes seems to put all the pieces back together and fill in the gaps where needed. Often I wonder who is being healed in the process, me or them? In the giving and in the receiving there is an offering of wisdom that goes beyond what I can say in words.
I was given this photo which was extracted from the film documentary, Mysore Magic, in the bonus section of the DvD. Thanks to Lu, for passing it along! This is me with my teacher R. Sharath Jois.
Kuala Lumpur Skyline
Two weeks in KL went by really fast. In a blink of an eye, I am already at my next destination, Taiwan. My second trip to the island nation, quickly I feel at home. On the inside I'm really Asian. You didn't know? Hahaha. Through the course of the last four to five years I've had the opportunity to explore various Asian cities and there is an abundance to take in and enjoy in regards to the cultures in this part of the world. Number one being the food, haha! I'm biased.
Mangosteen! Delectable and Nutritious. Boo-ya!
Bubble Tea. My indulgence. Yum.
Green Tea. Ahhhhh. Love
Traditional Taiwanese Dessert
Brown Rice with Hijiki. Macrobiotic and Organic
Don't remember what this was besides a bowl full of veggies and rice.
Throughout my travels there have been a vast number of positives taken from every place. The contrast of what I become accustomed to allows for growth and the opportunity to broaden my perspective. I welcome it even though there are times when it can be uncomfortable. Frustration can loom and at the end of the day I am simply better for the experience.
Teaching in various countries what I find most interesting are the collective energies found in each community. Teaching in Taiwan again brings fond memories and new ones made while in Malaysia. Embracing a place enters into my cells and stays there. The sounds and smells bring it all back.
I extend a huge thank you to Ashtanga KL for having me before my departure to Taiwan for two weeks. It was a lovely, intimate group who practice in the heart of Kuala Lumpur's city center Westin Hotel. Teaching Mysore is really where my love lies, even though I find enjoyment in the various workshops I teach. The practice is expressed in beautiful color no matter where I go.
Chinese Buddhist Temple in KL city center
The beauty of KL is in it's diversity. An eclectic mix. A hodgepodge. Another type of melting pot. When I traveled by monorail to meet friends I was fascinated during the short ride. I saw an Islamic Mosque, a Chinese Buddhist temple, and a Hindu temple all in a short distance from each other. There's a pronounced muslim community and the city center is teaming with expatriates. I was told the Indian population was around 30%, although I don't know if that's exactly true. At any rate, it's a cool place. Even though I have never been to Singapore I've also been told KL is a bit edgier and not as organized. Travelers should be wary of bag theft as it is common place. I managed not to run into any problems. Just something to be aware of. Traffic is an issue. My only major gripe is it's not a city conducive for walking. A problem I have found with many Asian metropolises. Anyway, no two places are ever the same, it all goes back to contrast. A positive to traveling by car much of the time is I had the most lovely cab drivers during my stay. Maybe I was lucky or maybe that is another city trait that makes KL distinctly KL.
KL night traffic from high above
Awesome KL coffee shop, Lokl
Shopping, shopping, shopping. KL has it all.
One of KL's many shopping centers, Pavilion