Tuesday, May 31, 2011

What are these?

I spotted these red things along a path I travelled during one of my trips, and does anyone want to take a wild guess, what these are?
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Tip: It's really useful, and comes in as an emergency tool too!

I am not running a contest here, but just sharing something I found interesting and may be intriguing to frequent travellers who may have seen these somewhere before too!
I will reveal the answer in the next post, if there are comments:)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Wisdom Path: The Heart of The Heart Sutra

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Continuing from my last post on Lantau Island, about the Giant Buddha and the colorful Po Lin monastery, comes another hidden attraction tucked away in the woods which many may not know about although it is gaining popularity through blogs and local tv series filmed on the location.
The Wisdom path, is the underdog, having been outshone by the major attractions which are so widely popularized by the tourism pages and the media.

You see, though it may be known to the tourists, but usually the crowds would have limited time and the focus is always on the famous Buddha statue and also the temple, and there may not be sufficient stamina to visit this place which requires a few minutes of walk away from both the tourist attractions.
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However, I do recommend, if you have the time, to just enjoy a quiet 10-15 minutes walk leading to the Wisdom Path.
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It may sound like a drag, but you will treated to the scenes of nature as you pass by a tea garden in the process. Be ready to welcome the light scent of tea leaves along the way.
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It is a rather quiet and peaceful walk along the way, and I recommend it if you are with a partner (if you are a lady), just in case although it should be pretty safe.
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You do not have to worry about not being able to find your way or getting lost, as there are signs to watch out for along the way, and they are pretty visible to guide tourists to stay on the trail.
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When you are greeted by tall blocks standing in front of you, like they are displayed in a collection, you have arrived at the Wisdom Path.
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Behold the sight of the beautiful mountain, which is also the Lantau Peak as the background for the wooden inscriptions standing which form the Wisdom Path.
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Now, the next question that may pop up in one's mind would be, what is so special about a dozen or more wooden planks standing in the middle of the woods?

These wooden blocks are all wooden inscriptions from the Buddhism Heart Sutra
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A little on the Heart Sutra, also known as the Mahayana Sutra:
The full name of this Sutra is Prajna Pramita Heart Sutra; where Prajna means wisdom and Pramita is perfection in Sanskrit. This is one the shortest sutras available; as it only contains 260 words and is best known as Mahayana Sutra, or in short, Heart Sutra.
Probably due to the length of the sutra, this is also one of the most popular sutras around.

The sutra focuses on the concept of 'emptiness' and may not necessarily be that easy to understand. The emptiness emphasized in the sutra has nothing to null, void or zero; but rather that everything that exists in this world is dependent on other existences and there are always conditions to fulfill. Due to this same fact that everything exists based on dependency, nothing could sustain for eternity and that there is always a relativity of all beings.

To understand this doctrine on 'emptiness', one must be ready to accept that everything around us are subject to constant change and nothing stays stationary. It is a concept to understand that we have to adapt to the changes and evolution continuously take place and that we should appreciate things at the moment and at the same time, not get too attached to each and every one of them.
It is only through that way, we can achieve perfect harmony and peace within ourselves; physical and mental and we can be free of worries, living our lives happily. It is an ideal situation and people would live their lives not holding on too tightly to materialism and at the same time, appreciating each and every one thing in our lives.

It is then that the idealisme of 'emptiness' can be achieved.


If you observe the inscriptions, you will find one in particular which is empty, without any word carving on it.
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This is the symbolism of 'Emptiness'.

Also, if you are observant enough, you may also find that the wooden inscriptions are positioned in a very unique layout design; whereby they are arranged in the form of the figure '8', which signifies infinity in the context.
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Although this is my second time here, I still feel that this is a very fulfilling walk and it provided a deep sense of serenity as I observe these inscriptions of wisdom. It is not fully about religion alone, but more of an idealisme of life and being a Catholic, to me, as long as the teachings tell us to do good and not harm others, they are good :)

There is a hut nearby for a short break/rest before making your way out.
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Also, if you are into hiking up the second highest point in Hong Kong, you can consider starting from here to Lantau Peak.
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I am sure this is a fantastic place to watch the sunrise, as it was mentioned on the wooden signs next to the beautiful phoenix statue.
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I enjoyed words of wisdom like these, it makes one more whole on the inside as well as physically to be able to understand and to enjoy teachings that have been passed down for centuries.

It is a good thing that this sutra had been translated since the 3rd century A.D into Chinese (21 translations) and have made its way around the whole world; and was even preached daily by the holy men.
It is not easy to fully understand the sutra, I am sure, although it sounds easy from the translation, but for one to fully understand, one has to experience to truly say, they have seen it all :)

I did feel wiser, now after trekking the Wisdom Path, did you? ;)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Places to Visit in Hong Kong: Po Lin Monastery

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Located near the famous Giant Buddha (Tian Tan Buddha), the bright colors of red, orange and gold of the Po Lin Monastery (Precious Lotus Monastery) is another attraction on Lantau Island not to be missed.

The monastery had come a long way from history, since 1906 when it was first founded by three monks visiting from Jiangsu.
The monastery is one of the largest shrines in Hong Kong, and housed statues of Buddha in the temples.

Joss sticks are seen as one approaches the temple; the smaller but the main entry into the monastery. In Buddhism, devotees usually don't use joss sticks when it comes to worship but as there is a little fusion with the Taoism, Buddhists use joss sticks to aid their prayer and as a form of respect and worship to Buddha. (I think it is all a matter of faith)
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However, take note that the joss sticks or incense are not allowed inside the temple and therefore, they are to burnt outside in the available holders filled with ash.
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Step into the little shrine and be filled with awe with the simple yet grandeur affair that beholds.
The ceiling were tiled with traditional oriental-based designs.
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The first shrine housed Matreya (Laughing Buddha, or also known as Happy Buddha) to welcome visitors at the entrance.
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The Four Heavenly Deities/Guards were spotted at both sides of the small temple and they were known as the protectors.
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It is not uncommon for flowers and fruits to be offered as gifts to the deities/gods in the temples to denote respect.
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Step outside of the shrine and there is a small garden before the main temple which sits right behind the earlier shrine and rests above the steps.
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Spot the white and sacred statue of the Godness of Mercy amidst the beautiful cacti surrounding.
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Behold the rich and striking colors of red, gold and orange which define the identity of Po Lin Monastery as you step into the main temple, which is intricately adorned with the amazing oriental motifs appearing on the ceiling, walls, pillars, door and even the main altar.
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It was an amazing visual feast not to mention, a momentary lapse into the state of divinity.
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The main attraction in the main temple, however, lies in the three statues one looks at in awe when entering the temple.
Three Buddha statues are sitting inside the main temple represent the past, present and future of Buddha.
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It may not be a really big temple, but the beauty of the temple truly leaves one speechless.
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While admiring the beautiful architecture of the temple from the outside before you leave, do take in the picturesque view of the Giant Buddha which can be seen from this temple.
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Visitors are reminded to remain silent as a sign of respect to the worshippers, but I am sure many would be in awe and admiration (whether you are a believer or not) and the place left not only vivid memories but also a deep sense of serenity and peace as you walk away.
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Next: Wisdom Path

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Places to visit in Hong Kong: Tian Tan Buddha (Giant Buddha) on Lantau Island

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Ask any local Hongkie to recommend places to visit in Hong Kong, and Lantau Island is definitely one of them. One of the outlying islands in Hong Kong, Lantau Island is connected to the main island by the famous Tsing Ma Bridge and is home to the Chek Lap Kok International Airport and also Ngong Ping, a major tourist hot spot with religious and cultural interests on their list.

The main crowd puller in Lantau, however, lies in the gigantic statue of Gautama Buddha which sits atop a three platform altar facing Lantau Peak, the second highest mountain in Hong Kong.
Officially known as Tian Tan Buddha, and also by various simple references; 'Big Buddha', 'Giant Buddha', the huge bronze statue is one of the largest statues of Buddha situated outdoors in the world.
(Before 2007, it was the largest in the world)

The gigantic Buddha statue is a remarkable landmark on Lantau Island, and attracts visitors from all over the world to admire the statue which is a symbol of Buddhism.
The peaceful posture of Buddha, and the sitting on top of a lotus flower are all closely related to the teachings and englightenment of Buddha.

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The Tian Tan Buddha derived its name from the Heavenly Altar or the Earthly Mount of Tian Tan, after the Temple of Heaven in Beijing.
(Source: Wikipedia)

The construction of the giant statue began in the 1990s and the completion was on December 29, 1993 which coincided with the day of Buddha's Enlightenment.
The bronze statue of Buddha measures at the 34m high and weighs 250 metric tons, and is composed with the peaceful gestures largely associated with Buddhism.

The giant Buddha can be seen as one reaches Ngong Ping, and according to some, the statue can also be seen from Macau on a particularly clear day (very clear, I presume).
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As the statue is located on a high platform, one would have to climb approximately 268 steps to reach the Buddha statue (can be associated with the hardship experienced before one can achieve/enjoy peace).
It may be an exhausting climb to some, but the staircase is designed in such a way that there are viewing/resting platforms along every flight of ten or more steps.

These platforms are decorated with the symbolic Buddhism structures and some with the inscriptions from the teachings of the religion.
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From near, the statue appears magnified and gigantic and yet exudes a rather peaceful composure. The Buddha statue had one hand held up (right hand), while the left hand is rested on the lap.
The right hand signifies the removing of all suffering while the left, is in a form of giving dhana to mankind.

I remember being in awe of the statue when I first came here in 2007, and yet my second time here still had me gazing at the statue in admiration and respect.
Many of the visitors are devotees; some being locals, who came to pray and worship the compassionate Buddha with their personal offerings and wishes.

Buddha is a highly regarded figure and the dignified Buddha is portrayed by the surrounding of six bronze statues in the kneeling form and offering gifts.
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The statues are much smaller bronze figures, and are known as 'The Offering of the Six Devas'. The six offerings are of flowers, incense, lamp, fruit, music, and ointment to the great Buddha and each represent the teachings; charity, zeal,meditation, moral, peace, and wisdom which are all related to the requirements to achieve nirvana (an ideal state in the teachings of Buddhism).
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Besides admiring the gigantic statue of Buddha, take time to browse through the three halls beneath the statue.
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The halls are:
1. The Hall of Universe
2. The Hall of Benevolent Merit
3. The Hall of Remembrance

Inside the halls, you can find scriptures from the teachings of Buddhism, paintings and even memorial hall for some of the deceased here (one include late HK superstar, Anita Mui).
Take note that no photography or videography is allowed inside the halls, and that silence is to be maintained to be respectful to the place.

It is an enlightening experience inside the halls; but the main and most important exhibit inside one of the halls is the relic of Gautama Buddha; which is one of the cremated remains of Buddha himself.
The entry to this hall is strictly by the ticket and again, no photography/videography is allowed and visitors view the relic through the glass display.

Take time to enjoy the view of Buddha and the nearby mountains from the platforms surrounding the Big Buddha.
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The magnificent statue is definitely one to marvel; devotee or not and should be included on every visitor's itinerary in Hong Kong.
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Next : Po Lin Monastery (near Tian Tan Buddha)...