Tsz Shan Monastery March 2021

It’s been a year since I have written a blog post, travelled, or even picked up my camera.  Last week I had the privilege of visiting the beautiful Tsz Shan Monastery (慈山寺) in my own backyard that is Hong Kong.  Tsz Shan Monastery covers an area of 500,000 sq ft in Tai Po in the New Territories and is privately owned by Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka Shing who wanted to bring the Buddhist teachings of Clarity, Compassion, and Action to the masses.  The Tang-styled monastery complex cost over US$190 million and took 12 years to build and opened to the public in 2015 free of charge through a booking system hence limiting the number of people visiting each day.  The place is simple, solemn, but elegant and kind of reminds me of an Aman resort. The highlight here is no doubt the 76-meter tall Guan Yin (Goddess of Compassion) statue which is the world’s largest bronze Guan Yin statue and can be seen from miles away. Underneath the statue is a Buddhist Art Museum that officially opened in 2019 and houses many Buddha statues and relics from different eras and countries. My friend kindly arranged our visit through Buddhist Master Yan Wei 衍偉法師 who personally showed us around the compound and discussed some of Buddha’s teachings in a very relaxed and informal way. The monastery also offers a vegetarian lunch and very decent coffee. Master Yan Wei’s approach to teaching Buddhism is very informal and very different from the other masters I have met before. My own Buddhist teacher is very serious and teaches through the more traditional way of discussing the various Buddhist sutras in these long and almost unbearable sessions. But Master Yan Wei would make things light and often jokingly refer to modern day events and his own life prior to becoming a monk when he used to work in the entertainment industry.  He communicates with younger people through sports such as the monastery’s own basketball team and borrowing from the popular coffee culture and creating coffee meditation sessions etc.  He teaches through simple stories and one such story he shared with us was that of the earthworm husband and the millipede wife.  Every time the couple gets ready to go out, Mr. Earthworm would complain that his millipede wife takes forever to put on all her shoes.  One day, Mrs. Millipede calmly told her husband that he should stop complaining because she never complained that he doesn’t even have any feet.  This story teaches us that before you criticize and complain about others, be self-aware and reflect upon yourself first. Even though his approach is very casual and a bit unconventional and I’m sure sometimes criticized by the more traditional masters, I came away with a refreshed enthusiasm to explore more of these Buddhist teachings. To me Buddhism has never just been a religion, it is more a way of life.  The scriptures teach lessons of compassion, filial piety, and the acceptance that everything in life is in a constant state of flux.  We all have different lessons to learn in life and until we figure them out, things will keep repeating themselves. Tsz Shan Monastery is the perfect place for a breath of fresh air, a bit of contemplation, and finding some of that missing peace.  In this fast-paced world that we live in, we all need moments of stillness, peace, and plain nothingness and as T.S. Eliot wrote, be that “still point of the turning world”.

Map of Tsz Shan Monastery (courtesy of http://www.tszshan.org)
The Maitreya Hall houses a golden statue of the Buddha Maitreya who is the future buddha said to appear when the dharma will have been completely forgotten by our world.  Surrounding it are the Four Heavenly Kings whose task is to protect the world in their direction respectively.
Standing to the left and right of Sakamuni Buddha are two of his principle disciples, the Venerable Mahakasyapa and the Venerable Ananda.  Master Yan Wei comically referred to the stern and strict Venerable Mahakasyapa as Mr. No who was always ready to chastise the others for their offenses.  While he referred to the compassionate and erudite Venerable Ananda who is one of the most loved figures in Buddhism as Mr. Yes.  Master Yan Wei says Mr. Yes and Mr. No all exist in our lives, but unfortunately more often than not we are very demanding and strict with others but are quite lenient on ourselves.  Instead, we should be more self-aware and strict with ourselves while being more compassionate and forgiving with others.

 

Until the next time! Thanks for stopping by!

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Anjar July 2018

The ancient ruins I have visited in the past were normally of Greek and Roman origin.  Rarely have I come across an Islamic one.  Not

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2 Responses

  1. Hi, Beatrice, how are you today? It’s so nice to see a blog post in my WordPress readers feed from you, I missed your travel photos and posts! I am glad to hear you had a chance to visit the beautiful Tsz Shan Monastery, it looks like a beautiful place to explore. Ireland is still under very strict travel rules and regulations, we are not allowed to leave the country or even travel within it. Aiva :)

    1. Hi Aiva, it’s been a long while. Have been stuck in Hong Kong which is quite a small city for a year now. We are allowed to leave but upon return we have to undergo a 21-day mandatory quarantine in a hotel which means you are monitored and cannot step foot outside your hotel room for the duration. This is a big deterrent to go anywhere. Otherwise life goes on (you are required to wear a mask indoors and outdoors), people still go to work, eat out at restaurants, go shopping etc. Thankfully, the situation is not that bad here. This pause gave me the opportunity to spend lots of time with my loved ones and reflect a bit on things. It is amazing how one adapts. Hope you are well!

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