East meets North

Written by on March 11, 2012 in Commentary, interesting with 0 Comments

East meets North
by Christian Joore

We had friends come up from Kingston for a visit last weekend, they have a young toddler roughly the same age as our daughter so most of the afternoon was spent watching them play together. Matt (from Kingston) asked me if I had heard about the Tibetan Monastery being built nearby Peterborough (which I hadn’t). He explained that it would be the largest Tibetan Monastery in the world after completion.

For anything to be ‘in the world’ around Peterborough is a big deal, and so Sarah and I decided to stop by the site the next day while we were out running errands.

We found some information online that said it was out near the ski area known as Devil’s Elbow, in town of Bethany. On the drive out we found the area very serene, with rolling hills and open fields, all dusted with a sparse layer of snow, the waning remnants of a weak Kawarthan winter.

Past the Ski area, we could see a newly paved gravel drive intersecting the main roadway and going up into the hills. As we approached we were greeted by 10 large stone statues flanking the entrance, they were in the shape of lions.

These were very impressive. They were large, intricately carved, and despite their imposing bulk they seemed somewhat playful instead of sinister. I got out of the car and went for a closer look while Sarah snapped a photo of me beside one. Incidentally as I reached up to its head I found that it had a ball in its mouth, like it had just finished playing a game of fetch or something. A fun detail I thought.

The statues were Tibetan ‘Snow Lions’, a symbol of Tibet as I read later. The Lions are meant to protect the Buddha, which is another statue that will be coming (by boat from China), all 100 tonnes of it.

The entrance up into the hills was gated off so we weren’t able to get to the Monastery site. As we left we tried to look up into the hills but not much could be seen from the road.

The Monastery

The Monastery is said to be a reconstruction of an existing temple in northern China, the Wutai Shan (below). It will be built mostly of Rosewood and use no nails, a traditional practice of temple construction. The Wutai Shan will also be the largest of four other temples that will be going up around the Peterborough area.

The Wutai Shan will be 65,000 sq/ft, and set on a site spreading across more than 500 acres. The site was chosen because it is a perfect match to the geographical character of the original temple site. The Buddhists have said that Bethany’s natural environment will help to inspire an inner calmness and peacefulness, which a mainstay in the practice of Buddhism.

Despite the culture clash to Peterborough lifestyle – box stores, pickup trucks, country music and Tim Horton’s coffee shops – to be honest I am excited for it to come … there is something about it that I like, and so I welcome it with open arms. Frankly, I am excited to visit the finished building, I am sure it will be quite a spectacle. I plan on bringing my entire family when it is completed.

The only questions I have now are about Buddhism itself. And so, I found out a little …

Buddhism

  • Buddhism is the third largest religion in the world.
  • Buddhism is a ‘godless’ religion; there is no divinity and thus, no worship of any supernatural being or power.
  • Buddhism is a way of life; a way of thinking, a philosophy.
  • The Buddha was real person, born of real parents 2500 years ago. He taught to his people about reality and humanity, how to live life and avoid pain, loss, and suffering. His teachings came from his experiences living on his own in the outdoors.
  • Buddhism is a path of spiritual and mental practice that develops an awakening of the mind, an awakening to the true nature of the universe.
  • Buddhism is not a proselytizing religion, it does not seek to convert people, in fact you only here from a Buddhist if you ask. They do not come knocking on doors.
  • Some Buddhists do regard Buddha as a savior, and pray in devotion to the memory of him as others would pray to Jesus or Allah.

Is Buddhism a religion? Answer: Yes and no.

No – the basic form of buddhism is a philosophy of morality and ethics, and much more.

Yes – it is what you make it, in your life, based on your needs. Some cultures have adapted Buddhism by way of another historical religion, this leaves Buddhism flexible, sculpting itself into many forms depending upon what the person or culture needs from it.

There are no divine commandments, however there is one underlying principle that is the essence of Buddhism – that is to ‘think’; think about what you are doing and why, think about what may result from your thoughts or actions, to act skillfully in your life and avoid extremes of behaviour, to be ultimately responsible for what you do. This is called the ‘middleway’.

“Do not follow the ideas of others, but learn to listen to the voice inside yourself” – Zen Master Dogen

Much focus is paid on morality, concentration (meditation), and wisdom, with the main goal being to achieve complete ‘enlightenment’ or ‘Nirvana’. This brings about a greater awareness of things, an inner calmness and peacefulness, accompanied by compassion and kindness towards all beings.

So don’t worry, there won’t be any loud parties – just quiet awareness, compassion, joy and giving. Hey, sounds good to me. Welcome to Peterborough.

–CJ–

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