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Many Adventures of a Nomadic Poet A young poet with Asperger's makes travel his passion, and away he goes...

A taste of Buddhism in Aotearoa

NEW ZEALAND | Tuesday, 16 September 2008 | Views [672]

Welcome to the Dorje Chang Institute! A Tibetan Buddhist centre where big love and wisdom is practiced and absolutely no living thing is killed. It's a 2.5 hectare "Garden of Eden" with the high-rises of Auckland off in the distance. There are five rules to follow here: don't kill, lie, commit adultery, steal, or take intoxicants (e.g. alcohol). Even tiny insects are not killed in Buddhism, as followers believe in reincarnation so it's believed that if you kill an ant or any other animal that you may be killing the reincarnation of a deceased family member. Gyalten, a Buddhist nun showed me around the institute. It is really beautiful, with a stupa, prayer wheel, gompa, Buddhist library, book & gift shop, and a large grassy area with a stream following through it. When Gyalten showed me what to do as part of my WWOOFing duties she saw a teacup that had ants on it. She will shake them off into the grass rather than running water under the cup and drowning them. Gyalten also instructed me to keep an eye out for insects as I'm sweeping. You have to provide your own food here, but you get to participate in the meditation sessions for free. Here I learned that a place of meditation has to be very quiet and that even relaxing noises such as soft music, flowing water, or wind can disturb meditation. During this session I sat completely still with my legs crossed, hands together, and eyes closed for like 20 minutes...can't remember the last time I did that! Buddhism began in India and then Emperor Asoka brought it to China. If you're just learning about New Zealand or if you're a first-time traveller, it isn't the type of place you'd expect to find a Tibetan Buddhist centre, but with its proximity to Asia there is a sizable population of Buddhists. Mark, an astrology expert, and I chatted tonight about Buddhism and the Eightfold Path, which consists of eight factors: right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration. Buddhism often isn't thought of as a religion, but more like a set of practices based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama; better known as "Buddha." When I was on Waiheke Island, my host (Roberta) suggesting WWOOFing here and so far I couldn't think of a better place! I love it here! When I was learning about Buddhism in secondary school I used to jokingly call it "bootyism." Nangsa got a laugh out of that when I told her that. Nowadays I wouldn't call it that. There's another cool WWOOFer named Bryan staying here, but he's leaving soon for the Mahamudra Centre, another Buddhist institute which is located on the Coromandel. There are several people of importance here, so I'll list their names: Gyalten and Nangsa (both nuns), Geshe Wangchen, Rinchen (the English translator), and Lobsang.

The next morning I went in and spun the prayer wheel, and it went around five times. It's important to spin prayer wheels in a clockwise direction with the right side of your body nearest to the object. Buddhism seems to be a beautiful religion. Its followers have high respect for life and its medicines are herbal and natural. A resident shared some mooncake with me; it's a sweet treat with an egg yolk in the middle. Around the property there are several ducks with their ducklings, and it was funny when one day they went into the prayer wheel room, and I tried to lead them around the prayer wheel. I really love the Dorje Chang Institute! When I do gardening work here I put all my effort into it because I want this place to be beautiful! Whether it's pulling weeds, planting, watering, or whatever else, I really enjoy it. After only three days or so I've learned heaps. However, I asked Nangsa, another nun if I'm pulling weeds, aren't I violating a lay vow by killing? But, she said that plants don't count. Meditation here has really helped out; I've fallen asleep earlier and I've taken my mind off the problems with my relationship with Teressa. Yesterday it was very hard, and Gyalten recommended that I talk to Geshe Wangchen about it. He instructed me that on one hand she hurt me, but on the other she was honest with me, so I should give her a second chance. 

Today was an "open day" at the institute, and I was a big part of helping set up. Last night I had to make all the boxes for food (I got a free lunch for it). There's some excellent food today; the chowmein was especially good. Today was basically a day to help introduce people to Buddhism and help them become more interested in it, there are pamphlets and flyers showing the meaning of Buddhism, there's relaxing music, and all the like. The event was fabulous today! And for several hours and I was helping out and having fun. Last week I found out I was accepted to the University of Auckland, so I asked Gyalten if I could possibly stay for a few months next year if I ended up attending, but she said she'd have to talk to the director about that. Late in the day I had to help clean up and put everything away. It was a lot of hard work today, but it was a great day! 

What was supposed to be a week here turned out to be almost three weeks at this lovely piece of paradise. The most important thing I learned here is to respect and have a deeper understanding of life. When I was younger I would sometimes step on insects and kill them, but I've learned not to; my father used to say "what if someone did that to you?". He's right! This place is wonderful! When you walk through the set of red double doors to the gompa, you'll be enlightened and amazed! I encourage you stay there; you'll have a completely different perspective on life once you leave (if you can find yourself to). If you're interested, visit the institute's website at www.dci.org.nz. Relax and go Ommmmmmmmmm. Peaceful!

Tags: buddhism, culture, people


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