Reflections on China, 2017 (with Photos)

Summer has nearly come and gone. Like so many, it has been busy, trying to fit in as much travel, time with friends and family, time in nature, and time alone in meditation as possible.

Like last year, this summer I joined the Woodenfish Foundation's Humanistic Buddhist Monastic Life Program in China as a member of the core faculty team. We met in Shanghai in late June and traveled to nearby Ningbo, where area mountains provide an apt setting for Buddhist monastics.

Shanghai

Shanghai

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A panorama of our temple complex, Jin'e, outside of Ningbo, China.

A butterfly on bamboo in the bamboo forest surrounding our temple.

A butterfly on bamboo in the bamboo forest surrounding our temple.

The rural setting of the monastery was perfect. The air was clear (a big deal in eastern China) and crisp. Rain fell regularly, sometimes in torrential pours. The food was delicious, the air conditioning worked perfectly.

Students arrived soon after we had and we quickly entered into a routine of morning meditation, tai chi, breakfast, and academic classes, followed by lunch, rest, and an afternoon of cultural activities and further meditation.

This was my second year with the team and things, much more than before, seemed to fall very nicely into place. This was particularly true with our teaching team: Peter, Karl, myself, and Guttorm. I had the pleasure of covering aspects of the study of religion, early Buddhist thought and practice, modern mindfulness, and Yogacara. 

Sadly, my time there was shorter than usual - just 16 days instead of a full 4 weeks. Nonetheless, it was a great opportunity to reconnect with friends and Ven. Yifa, and to dig deeply into material I otherwise do not get to explore as thoroughly. And it was good to get away from the constant news cycle of American politics. Each trip plants more seeds of potential, connection, dharma, no matter how short or busy. 

Ven. Yifa instructing students in front of our main shrine room

Ven. Yifa instructing students in front of our main shrine room

Ven. Yifa telling students about the meaning of shaving one's head in Buddhism - including the spiritual (and practical - no shampoo or conditioner!) benefits.

Ven. Yifa telling students about the meaning of shaving one's head in Buddhism - including the spiritual (and practical - no shampoo or conditioner!) benefits.

One of our cultural activities included a visit from Shaolin monks. Along with a show of their proficiency in martial arts, they gave teachings on music and calligraphy. 

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Students in formal robes for a chanting ceremony in our main shrine room, guided by Ven. Yifa.

Students in formal robes for a chanting ceremony in our main shrine room, guided by Ven. Yifa.

One last photo op before my departure. From L to R in back, Karl, me, Peter, & Guttorm. 

One last photo op before my departure. From L to R in back, Karl, me, Peter, & Guttorm.