the line to go to the temple went around the block and then three blocks down. heh. not all the time was lost. i spotted an architectural site, this unusual residential tower in which the architects designed an end piece to resemble a stone mountain - cave windows and all. talk about getting literal inspiration from nature for our work.
i decided then to go back to Jing'An temple and find one of the Buddhist stores located about two blocks from it, which i have visited before. there i found two bracelets. they warmed my heart. it's strange to explain. they restore feelings of comfort in me, a sense i can repair things. maybe in the coming month i will go back to PutuoShan on the overnight boat and obtain a new bracelet. for now, these are cool. against the red they remind me it's Valentine's, so Happy Valentines.
i got a sleeping bag to keep my legs warm when in meditation at night before going to sleep. i hear these are a must if you go on retreat. the weather is getting warmer, though.
i thought i'd try this variation of Urdhva Danurasana today. it may look cool, but the height of the chair made it painful to get into it. however, the back felt good afterwards.
here is the video clip of my yoga presentation a week ago at our annual celebration. it was taken by a colleague with a handheld camera. it takes 11 minutes to watch. i found a free trial software to convert it to a format that can be uploaded. with file size reduction the result is a bit grainy. unfortunately the conversion software put its watermark on every frame. (for those unfamiliar with watching a video in a blog - to view, click on the lower left of the frame, where the gray triangular arrow shape is located.) i attempted to load the entire video in one fell scoop but this service provider hiccuped, so i divided it into three videos. enjoy.
my colleague T. showed me a video of David Swenson doing Kurmasana and asked me what the health benefits of the position was. he asked me if i would talk during one of our tea breaks, when we discuss topics in design, about the benefits of various yoga positions. it's a good idea, but i'll have to ask permission to do so, since i think the topics are supposed to be architecture related. i don't have Lino Miele's book with me and that is the best source that describes the health benefits of each asana. so i would have to rely on my memory, or see if i find information in the internet on the health benefits of particular asanas.
my colleague asked me to mention some statistics he heard today. 1% of the population of the city we live in, Shanghai, contracts cancer. it is probably due to lifestyle and environmental issues. that means one in a hundred people contract the disease here. food for thought, that we need to stay healthy, exercise, handle our stress, and (cough) avoid smoking. that last one is probably an inside joke. smoking seems like a birthright around these parts.
last week the meditation teacher attempted to correlate two of the paths of Buddhism that we find in China - Zen (or Chan) and Mahayanan (or Pureland). the greater number of practitioners here follow Mahayanan, which involves recitations of sutras during the entire meditation period. Zen schools are dedicated to quiet meditation, where you have to face the mind. that's my introduction to the subject. what the teacher said was that the role of Zen is to make you reach your pure heart. when you practice the essence taught in the heart sutra (no eyes, no ears, no nose, no smell, no touch, no object of mind...) you reach your heart and the senses become acute. in those moments, one sense can perceive what another sense usually does. so you could theoretically "see" with an ear.
so Zen opens the heart. the role of the Mahayanan practice is to transport you to another realm, to make you cross a bridge or take a boat over a river. well, i think that is what he said. frankly, the tradition i was handed down so far is Zen. i accept learning another practice of Buddhism. however, reading Zen Baggage, a Pilgrim through China, by Bill Porter, i learn that there are several monasteries of Zen active here. Zen practice may be active in those communities, but they may be in remote locations and available to monks. lay practitioners can access it when going on retreats. when i lived in California, Zen communities where more accessible to lay practitioners. but not here, so consequently, it is a form less practiced. practicing Buddhism is encouraged here because it is believed to foster social stability. i would add that it helps fill a void in people's lives that cannot be filled by consumerism or by acquiring material things.
bridge at the entrance to the temple
lions that guard the gates
the protectors of the Buddha of the Future
representations of different aparitions of Guanyin
behind the central Guanyin statue, on the back of the main temple, there is a giant statue of Guanyin standing, with hundreds of sculptures around it. i did not have a wide enough angle on my camera to capture this remarkable ensemble. this is as complex as a Baroque era European religious sculpture, in my opinion. i imagine that the way to really appreciate it would be when the doors in the back of the temple are open and it can be viewed from a distance. looking at it up close is simply a mesmerizing experience.
details of the doors
the restored rafters under the roof
the yellow glazed tile of the roof of a small temple
detail of a window
a beautiful thousand hands Guanyin statue. you can read this website for more a description on the legend of how the thousand hands Guanyin statue concept developed.
three Buddhas statues of Shakyamuni. my nephew asked me during the Christmas holiday why in Buddhism they repeat the statues to a same person or deity, within a same temple. i did not know how to answer at that time. here is an example of what he means. i remember visiting a temple in Yangshuo that had three giant Buddha statues such as these; then the walls were lined with thousands of small golden statues. i reflected that maybe people commissioned the small statues in remembrance of their loved ones that had died, when they hired the temple to conduct ceremonies in their memory. these statues may have been placed in the temple in remembrance. this would explain the meaning of small statues that line the walls of some temples. it does not explain why the central temple would contain three or five statues of the Buddha side by side. three and five may be auspicious numbers, but still i don't have an answer at the moment.
below are beautiful carvings in stone. these appeared to me to be created recently and they seem to depict typical life. i don't detect the story of the Buddha in it.