Ted’s room only had a mattress and a small chest of drawers in it. It was all white. Very simple and pure. Which is how the whole monastery was, in fact. When Ted had entered the main gate yesterday, he had been greeted by the main laymen of the monastery who had given him a short tour of the main shrine room, the dining hall, communal areas and garden, and finally his own bedroom.
All the monks had been very welcoming towards him. They were all smiling and radiated a serene feeling. This monastery was somehow a little more advanced as there were both male monks and female nuns resident here under the same roof. The strand of Buddhism that they followed, the Mahayana path, was more open and integrated individuals from all walks of life into its teachings.
Ted had been drawn to Buddhism from an early age. He was five when he first started reading about the Buddha and ten years of age when he started doing meditation and yoga. In his teenage years, his interest in the religion intensified. For Ted, it was more of a philosophy for life than religion. To him, all the teachings of the Buddha made perfect sense. The teachings articulated the fundamental philosophies effectively and provided one with tools to live in today’s modern world without going mad, and for understanding what life was about. Ted had found warm refuge in the teachings, and this is why he had decided to volunteer at a Buddhist monastery while he was in Taiwan.
Ted stretched and sat down for his kundalini yoga and meditation. The serenity and tranquility of the surroundings really got to him and he felt a strong inner peace that he had not felt for a long time.
After a while, Ted heard a gentle knock at his door. He got up and opened the bamboo door. The chief layperson of the monastery, Mister Choo, bowed at him.
‘Good morning, Sir Ted’, he said and bowed for a second and then for a third time. ‘Did you rest well?’
‘Good morning, Mister Choo’, Ted said and also bowed for three times. There was something magic about number three for the Buddhists and this is why everything was done three times. The magic number meant the three main components of Buddhism – the master (the Buddha), the teachings (the dharma) and the followers (the sanga).
‘Yes, I did very well, thank you’, Ted continued. ‘I fee like newly born now.’
Mister Choo laughed. ‘Well then, you may come and join us for the morning meditation, after which we will have our morning tea. And by the way, please call me Choo. Mister… is just too formal!’ Choo laughed again with hearty laughter.
Ted walked behind Choo down the narrow corridor. He could see other monks coming out of their rooms, dressed in orange ropes, walking slowly with their hands placed in a prayer position in front of their hearts. None of them spoke; everyone walked on to the meditation hall in absolute silence.
In the hall, the recitation of the heart sutra was in full swing. Incense was burning in front of the altar and red cushions were placed in even rows across the marble floor. Ted sat down next to a couple of nuns who were fully absorbed in reciting the sutra. Their voices were amazingly low and had a throaty Tibetan-style singing tone to them.
Ted joined in the chanting and was soon over-taken by the unity of the act and fully absorbed in hammering the verses in his head.