This most recent Sunday brought an interesting “field trip” of sorts for me, I joined my friends from Chùa Phật Bảo (the Vietnamese temple I’ve been going to) for a visit at a temple in Kentucky located about 90 miles south-west of Cincinnati. The occasion was a sort of somber one in this case as the service to be held was a memorial for a monk who had passed 49 days prior.
The temple itself is pretty far off the main roads and very quiet — a nearly perfect place (IMO) for a monk or nun to spend some serious quiet time in meditation. Contrary to my usual policy on photo-taking at temples, I joined my friends in respectfully taking some pictures while I was there.
The shrine room here is set up differently than at our local temple, but was very pretty and seemed much larger. Ahead of the shrine there is a raised platform where the nun or monk leading the service resides. Behind and lower, an area is set side for the lay people responsible for the bell and certain “solo” parts of the chanting ritual.
The rest of the room was very simple, which is appropriate when you figure this draws all attention to the shrine and clergy and leaves little else to distract anyone.
Outside, the attention goes to the various examples of Buddhist statuary, some of which I recognized depicting certain scenes from the Buddha’s life as shared by the Pali Cannon (stories probably told similarly in the Chinese Agamas). Seen to the right; I’m quite certain this is the Buddha’s first sermon to the five ascetics immediately after His Awakening.
Here we see a statue which seems, due to it’s placement under the treas, to depict the Buddha immediately after his awakening. Interestingly, both this and the scene mentioned above are common among those portrayed in statuary in Buddhist temples and monasteries, regardless of tradition.
Next, showing a little of the syncretism of Vietnamese Buddhism, an awesomely large example of a “Laughing Buddha” figure — a character I’ve come to relate to as a sort of Chinese Santa Claus. While many westerners would call him Buddha, I’ve learned to call him Budai. He is most representative of a god of happiness, or as a sort of bodhisattva, and bears little resemblance to the historical Gotama.
Pending any family business I get wrapped into over the next week or so, I will try to get a couple pictures of our local temple too. My family may be moving so my off-work schedule could be largely dictated by that, so we’ll see how things go.
I hope you are well, my friends. I will write again soon.