Sample Essay On Chua Linh Son Buddhist Temple: Austin Texas
When outsides of Austin, Texas, or Texas in general, think of the state they often do not consider it a cultural or religiously diverse mecca. It might shock people living outside the state lines to learn Texas entertains and welcomes individuals of all different cultures and religions, allowing them to set up places of residence and worship. One such place is the Chua Linh Son Buddhist Temple, located on 4604 Duval Road, in Austin Texas. It is an ornate Buddhist temple, elegant, pleasing, and beautiful to the eye of any individual, regardless of denomination. Catering primarily to the Vietnamese population of Austin, they do not close their doors to others, but rather welcome anybody curious about the Buddhist practice. I found my visit quite enjoyable and reflect on it fondly.
Unbeknownst to many unfamiliar with Buddhism, there are three practicing branches of the religion. The Chua Linh Son temple caters to Mayahana and Theravada. Mayahana translates literally into “Great Vehicle,” and is the dominant denomination among Vietnamese culture according to Dong Dai Nguyen . According the temple’s Abbot, or father, Venerable Thich Tri-Hue, Mayahana was also added to the temple to favor the large Chinese population in Texas. Mayahana practicing Buddhists seek eternal enlightenment, while Theravada practicing Buddhists follow the most ancient core texts of Buddhism, according to the Abbot, who was kind enough to show me around the ground at the beginning of my visit.
While one of the arts of Buddhism is the practice of detachment to physical objects, commodities, and the physical world itself, I could not help but be overtaken by the aesthetic beauty of Chua Linh Son’s grounds. The grass is green and short. Large trees grow tall, and strong while small saplings burgeon with new life next to the winding sidewalk near the main entrance. A quiet sense of calm and serenity descended over me before I was even on the temple’s polished front steps. Moreover, the calming, dulcet tones of chanting could be heard as I approached the front doors. I did not know what to expect as I entered. I do not “look the part” of a typical practicing Buddhist. I was not aware that I expected to be turned away simply for how I looked until I was welcomed into the temple with a warm smile and the Abbot, or head monk of the temple. He asked for no denomination, only how he could help me and if I was there to participate in chanting that afternoon. I later learned I was lucky to have met him, as he often splits his time between the temple in Austin, and the temple in Leander, but that I had chosen a day to visit when the Vietnamese Buddhist Youth group would be attending the temple, which he attempts to remain very active in despite his bust schedule. He believes part of his role is to act as a counselor, especially to the youths in the community. He confessed that many lack guidance in their homes and that if he can provide that, he would like to especially if it benefits the individuals later in life or helps them stay out of trouble now. I was surprised that his goals were not oriented entirely toward the Buddhism, or “recruiting,” as it sometimes is with other religions, but rather simply keeping members of his community safe and happy.
I was taken aback, even mildly confused by how freely structured part of the temple appeared, while another part of it seemed scheduled and regimented. There was a board on the wall listing times for chanting, prayer, and other rituals. Next to that was a calendar. Its purpose I later learned was to mark dates of importance for the Buddhist religion. There are many activities and events hosted by the temple. Individuals are welcome to come whenever they wish in order to speak the Head Monk, as I was lucky enough to do. Prayers and chants are also held daily and weekly, depending on the need. Meditation courses are offered once a month for beginners who would like to learn more about being a practicing Buddhist, and the benefits they can attain from meditating regularly. Ss I walked into the temple, the space was almost entirely wide open. A series of open archways were the only things separating me from a room full of chanting Buddhists, kneeling on square mats before an altar and golden statue of Buddha. The room was minimalist, with no art or ornate fixtures on the wall. It was primarily lit by natural light through the windows. Most adornments surrounded the Buddhist statue, however the scene was very beautiful, and the chanting was moving. I later learned it was a prayer chant. Incense had been lit. Three sticks, one for Buddha, one for the Dharma, of Buddhist teachings, and one for the Sangha, or Buddhist community. A small candle to symbolize enlightenment and a flower to symbolize purity were also present. . It was later expressed by an English-speaking member of the temple they were praying for a younger member’s mother. She was evidently emotionally abusive and the younger member believed if they were able to compel Buddha to grant her enlightenment, she would be a better caregiver to him and his siblings. The custom of lighting incense and praying is thought to please Buddha and is most widely practiced in Thailand, but as Vietnamese immigrants flooded Canada and the United States, Vietnamese practicing Buddhists began adopting it and other practices in an attempt to unify themselves with other Buddhists .
The overwhelming beauty of the prayer chants was only matched by the garden behind the temple. A large hedge surrounded the border of the grounds, acting as a fence. In the middle of the grounds stood a large, ivory-colored statue of Buddha. Modest stone steps led to the statue were, I was told, many individuals followed to meditate in front of the statue in hopes of coming closer to enlightenment or peace. Flowers, both potted and resting in the ground’s natural soil, surrounded the statue. Head Monk Thich Hue-Minh had gone by this time, but I had learned he had come to this country in an attempt to escape Vietnam. The journey was dangerous, and he insinuated that he traveled illegally, though I cannot confirm this. I asked why he had chosen Austin has his place of operation. When I think of Austin, I cannot imagine a place more in contrast to Vietnam. He answered perhaps that is why he chose it. I have encountered stereotypes such as these in television and movies, but Monk Hue-Minh did give off an air of calm and peace during the entirety of my brief exchange with him.
The words of Hue-Minh were so inspiring, in fact, that despite having no experience with the Buddhist religion whatsoever, I decided to stay for the afternoon meditation. It was explained to me beforehand that I need not know the chants, nor have any prior understanding of the religion. All I truly needed was a willingness to clear my mind and elevate my spirit to a higher level of awareness. I entered the previously described room still inspired, but relatively skeptical. I did not know how, without understanding the chants or anything about the Buddhist religion I was expected to do anything as noteworthy as elevating my spirit to a higher level of awareness. Nevertheless, I found a square mat. I assumed the position of enlightenment and openness, i.e. one hand palm up on my knee, one hand palm out over my heart, and closed my eyes. Softly, those around me began to chant, as I simply began to breath.
Soon I noticed my breathing matched their chanting. There were only twenty of us, though there were an estimated seventy-five mats in the room. I came to learn that Leander’s temple is much larger, and that this temple, built in 1998, was constructed in an effort to compensate for overflow and still cater to the growing Vietnamese and Buddhist population. Still breathing, I began to focus only on the sound of the air filling and leaving my lungs. I felt it filling my chest, and leaving my chest. Slowly, the sound of the chanting faded away. I could still hear it, but it was as if I had cotton in my ears, or the chanters and I were separated by many a thick wall of concrete. I found myself adrift in my own thoughts, breathing in slowly, and out slowly. For the first time in recent memory, I found myself completely in the moment. I was not concentrating on deadlines I had set for myself, or those others had set for me. More importantly, I was not dwelling in my past. I was just in the moment, breathing. I was with myself, as one of the chanters later put it. It is crucial that I admit this feeling was brief. It lasted only for a moment or two before I became conscious of it and caused the entire feeling to collapse in on itself and, thus, me as well. Nevertheless, the moment I did feel it was glorious. It was not enlightenment or anything close to it as I understand. Enlightenment, I learned after speaking to the Buddhists at the temple is only achieved after many years of practiced and dedicated meditation. What I experienced was only a small morsel of what our minds are capable of when we let go of ourselves and what is around us. However, it did get my interest and I am now, regardless of denomination, absorbed by the idea of living in the moment and maintaining a calm, peaceful manner throughout my daily life.
In sum, my visit to the Chua Linh Son Buddhist Temple in Austin Texas was educational and illuminating. I learned that Vietnamese practicing Buddhists predominately visit it, for which it was built, but that individuals of every ethnicity and even every religion visit the temple to find peace and guidance. The Head Monk of the facility is a capable, strong spiritual leader who is welcoming and excited to share what he knows. The temple and its grounds are beautiful, presenting the perfect sense of calm for the start to a spiritual journey. Before I remained skeptical to the idea of chanting and meditation, but after my visit I believe I am more open to it and may try it more often in an effort to improve my demeanor, as well as my life overall.
Nguyen, Dong Dai. "Looking Back the Process of Buddhist Unification of Vietnam in the 20th Century." Religious Studies Review (2010): 56-60. Article.
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