At the Monastery

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I spent part of the afternoon at the Shuang Lin Buddhist Monastery in Toa Payoh. I had visited the monastery a few weeks ago, and felt compelled to go there again today. (The pictures in this entry were taken by Kristin)
I intended to go with my neighbor, but she wasn’t feeling up to it, so I went alone.

There is something truly magical about this place. The lotus plants. The sleeping buddha. The courtyard. The incense. The chanting. And the people.

I sat down on a bench in the courtyard to have a sip of water and soak in the ambience of the place. On the bench next to me a woman was putting on socks. She was so kind, and invited me to come and sit with her. Her name is Rui. We talked for a long time, about my time in Singapore, about her family. She was curious about gun ownership in the United States and was concerned about all of the school shootings that have happened in recent years.

And, suddenly, she asked: “Why do you think terrorism exists?”

Amazingly, the question didn’t throw me, and I had an answer. It was an answer about a lack of connection, about a lack of understanding of “the other,” about fear.

I realized as I was talking that the reasons I provided her were the reasons that have motivated my community drama and cross-cultural and intergenerational work. There was an epiphany here somehow.

And then she jumped up, unzipped her bag and put on a black robe. She was a lay Buddhist, someone who has taken vows, and assists the monks in their prayers.

She told me: “Jen, you can go and pray. The buddhas are very powerful here. Ask the Buddha to guide you on your journey and your work in Singapore. I wish you all of the best.”

She disappeared into the temple. And she began chanting with the monks.

I did exactly as she said. I felt lighter.

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