This trip to China was a Journey to Kwan Yin. We were to visit many temples dedicated to Kwan Yin, the Bodhisattva of compassion. There is a tradition for Kwan Yin pilgrims to carry a yellow monk’s bag and have it stamped with a special red seal from each temple. Terez generously purchased a bag for each of us at the little stand at the temple.
Outside of Hangzhou, we went to the Upper Tien Chu Temple. We entered the temple and chanted part of the Lotus Sutra. It must have been quite a sight – thirty-two American women chanting in a Kwan Yin Temple . It was quite obvious that they Westerners were a rarity there. The temples are beautiful with saffron colored walls and blood red trim. I especially loved the ones with the patina of age. Many were newly painted and restored since the Revolution.
A woman was running around giving us suggestions about where to go, how to bow, and just giving us overall “help”. Finally, Linda Cutts, our leader and the Abbot from the Green Gulch Farm and Zen Center told her that we had our own way of practicing. I didn’t hear the conversation, but I know Linda said it in the kindest way. It turned out that the woman was the niece of the abbot and she hurried off to tell him about our group.
We were invited to tea with him. What a fun and unique meeting! Rusa Chiu interpreted and his niece assisted. He asked us our ages and seemed delighted to be entertaining us. Lung Jing or Dragon Well tea from the area was served.
Before leaving he gave us advice for a long life:
Have a good attitude
Have a good relationship
One of the most interesting things to me was visiting places where Dogen visited or studied. Dogen played a huge roll in bringing Chan (Zen) teaching to Japan. One of the temples we visited before leaving Hangzhou, was Jingci where Dogen practicied wiht Ru-Jing and “dropped body and mind.” There, after much gentle debate with the gate keepers, we were allowed to view the memorial to Ru-Jing. Outside of Ningbo, we visited Tiantong (where Dogen was enlightened under his teacher Ru Jing) and Ayuwang, the home of the Head Cook that Dogen met after his ship docked in China.
It was interesting to see some of the practices in the ancient temples that are still carried on in modern times and in the US. The obvious ones were the umpan for announcing meal time and monk’s bowls that were set for lunch when we were there.