Saturday, November 15, 2008
Wanting to Believe
Last weekend I visited the Lama Temple or Yonghegong. With fall in full swing, the leaves on the trees already turned yellow creating a colourful sight, not unlike the ones you see in North America.
This temple is very busy with not only tourists checking out one of the few sanctioned Tibetan temples, but also with locals who seem to visit on a regular basis.
They come armed with packages of joss sticks or incense, burning all of them at once and sticking them in the burner, or literally throwing them into the fire.
Others perhaps wanting to make a more divine offering, place unused joss sticks inside the temples. One wonders if the monks make a tidy business collecting these unused incense sticks and repackage them to sell, or sell them to the vendors just outside the temple to re-sell again.
Some people look like they are ferverently praying, others seem to go through the motions of holding the joss sticks and bowing three times without much thought.
Do they really know what they are believing in? Do they really know what Buddhism, or Tibetan Buddhism is?
Since the government outlaws Tibetans from governing their own land and has cracked down on separatists, there really isn't much objective knowledge about Tibetan Buddhism in China.
In the temple itself there isn't much explanation about the various halls or the statues, the rituals or objects. Either the government doesn't know, or it doesn't want people to know.
Which makes visiting the place a frustrating one, because you are just as mystified by it when you enter as when you leave.
Or maybe that's the whole point?