June 9, 2013

Seng Guan: Temple of Ten Thousand Buddhas

"Better than a thousand hollow words
is one word that brings peace."
- The Buddha
 
Most of the time, the combined heat and traffic in Divisoria is quite unbearable, making me feel that if I had hypertension, I think I’ll never get out of that place alive. But another discovery from my soul searching was worth the distressing jeepney ride to the shopping capital of Manila.
 
 
A hidden gem (but with a very conspicuous golden stupas) in the midst of a busy and chaotic area, Seng Guan is one of the biggest and most revered Buddhist temple in the Philippines. It is located in Narra St., Tondo, at the back of Philippine Cultural College and a good five-minute walk away from Tutuban Mall. Established in 1936 in honor of the venerable Archbishop Seng Guan (a zealous disciple of Buddha), the temple espouses the Mahayana style of Buddhism.
 
 
When I entered the doors of Seng Guan, it felt like I stepped in another world or in Buddhist term, another plane of existence. The temple which houses several miniature and life-size Buddha sculptures and intricate Chinese art works, is almost gilded. Every hall is sparkling in gold and dazzling in red, colors that signify prosperity and happiness. And even though I’m a Catholic, I never felt like a stranger to this beautiful place of worship.
 
 
Siddhartha Gautama or Buddha means the “awakened one”
 
 
 
A deity with several hands
 
 
After learning first-hand and by keen observation the beliefs and principles attributed to Buddha, I’m letting another religion in my heart.
 
To live is to suffer. But suffering could be overcome. This is the basic doctrine of Buddhism, anchored on the "four noble truths": 1. Existence is suffering. 2. Suffering is caused by craving and attachment. 3. There is a cessation of suffering.  4. there is a path to the cessation of suffering known as the "eightfold path" - right views, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration.  If only people learn to find contentment in the things that give them lasting happiness, they will achieve the purpose of life which is to end suffering.
 
The Oriental dragon is a powerful symbol of luck
 
Every incense stick holds a prayer or a wish
 
Red wooden half moons determine one's fortune in life
 
Most of the golden totems have pictures of Chinese couple who died,
believing that their souls would still meet in the afterlife
 
Another fascinating thing about Buddhism is its belief on karma and reincarnation. Buddhists believe that people are responsible for their own samsara or the cycle of birth and death. Their attitudes and actions (karma) produce the causes and conditions of their next rebirth after death. Anybody who has lived an unscrupulous and depraved life, will most likely be reborn a lowly fly in his next lifetime. The cycle will only be broken once a person reaches nirvana, a stage finally free of any suffering. And speaking of nirvana, could it be possible that I have fleetingly reached this stage the moment I entered the Hall of Ten Thousand Buddhas?
 
Hall of Ten Thousand Buddhas
 
My heart welled with happiness, I almost cried seeing such blinding beauty. I stayed in this room longer, savoring and admiring the view from floor to ceiling, from every corner to the center. Hello Buddha you look leaner after all.
 
Buddha once said that "You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection." So before I left the temple, I promised to do more good deeds (hopefully), try to follow the eightfold path, and love myself more. Maybe only then could happiness come into my life like a shadow that never leaves my side.
 
Now I think I know what that “one word better than thousand hollow words” is. And following the Buddhist ritual, I made a final wish for someone close to my heart.
 
But I guess I’m gonna cry soon.
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