The ‘Special’ Guests

The Longquan Great Compassion Monastery received another group of Dutch guests on April 25th. The majority of them are from the English class of a local language school where two of our monastics have been studying. After the English lecture, they visited the monastery as a regard to their two distinctive classmates. Some of their family members also came with them.

 

When these guests arrived, the monastery was holding the morning chant. The reception venerable was quite creative. She invited the guests to put on Haiqing — the cloth that Buddhists wear in religious activities. It was the first time for the visitors to wear Haiqing. They felt amazed by this new experience. That was exactly a special welcome ritual designed by the venerable on the purpose to quickly merge the visitors physically and spiritually into the monastery context. Following the venerable to walk around the Buddha statues in Haiqing, the guests appeared dignified and ceremonious. At first glance, they even looked like a group of well-trained Buddhists.

After experiencing chanting of scriptures, the venerable introduced them the background of the three statues in the main hall. As the venerable explained how to recognize the Buddha statues, the guests couldn’t help asking about the Buddhist instruments because they had seen the Sangha playing the instruments and were curious about the sound from each instrument. The sounds from the Big bell and the inverted bell were in particular special to them and the little Chinese wooden block was so lovely. They consulted on the special meaning of each instrument and were interested to know whether the Sangha could play all the instruments. The venerable patiently answered their questions. Because several guests were especially fond of the inverted bell and the wooden block, they even asked whether they could take them away. The introduction had to be finished at the lunch time and the guests had to leave the main hall reluctantly.

 

During lunch time, after the Sangha demonstrated the rituals for offering vegetarian meal, the guests enjoyed a typical Chinese vegetarian meal. It has been our monastery’s characteristics to supply Dutch guests with traditional Chinese food. Through the medium of foods, we aimed to present our guests with the real spirit of Buddhism and offer them an opportunity to experience Chinese culture and tradition. This typical lunch deeply impressed them. That is, so to speak, the stomach runs in front of the Dharma cakra.

After lunch, the guests watched the video of “Beijing Longquan Monastery through the eyes of an American”, which gave them a glimpse of the Buddhist life in a modern Chinese monastery. The guests were very interested in this straightforward presentation. As it was shot by an American on the basis of his personal experience in Longquan Monastery in Beijing, it resonated with Dutch guests and narrowed the gap between the two cultures, which made it easier for them to understand Buddhism.

Meditation practice is naturally an essential experience for the visitors. No matter they have ever visited monastery or have some knowledge about Buddhism or not, they are always enthusiastic with meditation. Mediation practice was a great way to connect them with Buddhism.

The three hours spent in the monastery gave the Dutch guests deep impression. For most of them, it was their first time to visit a Buddhist monastery, so it should be an extraordinary day for them. As it was a bit cold, some guests wore the yellow vests that were usually worn by the volunteers of the monastery. They looked dazzling in the yellow vests. It perhaps illustrated their acceptance of the Buddhis

Before leaving, every guest volunteered to put some money in the donation box. We thought that Dutch people don’t know this custom of offering, but in fact people here also have this tradition, which they call donation. The same behavior called in different names indicates the same spirit of compassion, devotion and reverence. Dutch people are by nature benevolent and charitable. It is just due to this virtue, they receive good karmic reward both materially and spiritually. 


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