Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Bikes, Buddhist Temples and Journeys

Two Fridays ago I decided to go for a bike ride along the lake. It never happened; there was no air in my tires. That turned out to be a good thing. I went for a walk and came up to the Truc Lam Vietnamese Buddhist Temple at Ashland and Wilson Avenue.

I had tried to get into the temple a number of times. It is a beautiful building complete with a huge Buddha in the front yard and smaller statuary and graceful gates. It is in a great location. A half a block north is Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church. Just south is a Franciscan House and a Augustinian House. A block west is the American Indian Center and a half block further is the All Saints Episcopal Church. It is a fun neighborhood. I was in luck, this time the gate was open and when I knocked on the door a young monk answered, that began a day of adventure.

He introduced me to the abbot, the Venerable Thich Hahn Tuan. He was very gracious. He told me how the building had been a Masonic Temple. That allowed for some large open rooms, a sturdy building and rooms with grace. The building needed a lot of work which they gladly did. The result is a magnificent temple in the middle of a Chicago neighborhood.

Vietnamese Buddhist Temple

The first floor had a large room of gathering and registration should there be a training event. There are offices. The main room is a beautiful room with carved tables from Viet Nam and statutes of Buddha. This is a class room. All the floors have been redone and the place sparkles with polished floors and woodwork.
The second floor is magnificent. This is where the altar is. Along the outside walls are statues of Buddha. Behind the altar is a shrine for the veneration of Monks, men and women of the temple community. At the back of the room is a smaller shrine. It would be easy to meditate in this room.

More of the Buddhist Temple

Venerable Thich Hanh Tuan then invited me to come back in the evening. It turns out that this is a Vietnamese temple that is a center of learning and culture for the residents of Little Viet Nam. However, it also works with the larger Buddhist community of Chicago. He then told me a a Tibetan Buddhist Retreat that was taking place in their temple Friday night and all day Saturday. He invited me to attend the retreat.

Before I left to go to work I walked around the grounds. The temple is getting ready for a special exhibit next spring.They will be host to the largest jade Buddha in the world. The sign in the yard tells the larger community about the exhibit.
The yard has open areas, flowering plants and statues of Buddha’s. The center piece however is a large state of a Bodhisattva. The porch reflects the dedication to architecture representative of the Masons while telling the city they are approaching the Truc Lam Temple. It is a great yard.

Outside the Buddhist Temple

I then went to work. However, I was excited because I was returning in the evening. That night I signed up to attend the retreat sponsored by Padmasambhava Buddhist Center of Chicago. This was a special retreat on “The Wisdom and Compassion of the Buddha.” The teacher was Lama Pema Dragpa.

I was very welcomed. I was made aware that I would be learning about Tibetan Buddhism which is different than the other two main branches of Buddhism. The evening began with meditation and readings. Then the lama spoke. He was young and a Westerner. He was also highly approachable, very learned and spoke with authority and warmth. I had a great time at the retreat. I left feeling very calm and happy to be introduced to both Vietnamese and Tibetan Buddhism in one day. I would not be able to make it back for the following day of training. Still, I was happy the day started with a bicycle that could not be used!

Tibetan Buddhist Worship in Vietnamese Temple

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