Clay is molded to form a cup; yet only the space within allows the cup to hold water. –Lao Tzu
Last week I was invited by Piyak, the Chinese teacher at Bunditnoi, to accompany him to his Taoist/Buddhist temple that weekend to receive Tao and Dhamma.
I gladly accepted the invitation. As a result, by noon Sunday I was forever forbidden entry to the realms of Hell.
The temple was a small complex of two rooms. We gathered first in one room that had a few tables, and we all shared a cooked meal. While the meal was taking place we were each called individually to write our names in a book and make a small donation to the faith.
When the meal was complete, we moved to the second room. This one was mostly empty except for a few chairs, a small table laden with yet more food, and a beautiful wooden altar which held a statue of the Bodhisattva of Compassion, a figure of Buddhist importance who I have learned carries many different names and is typically represented as female despite historical evidence suggesting the actual person was male. Behind the Bodhisattva were several paintings of warriors done in a style that looked distinctly Chinese.
The ceremony began by us all sitting (males on one side, females on the other) to a short lecture on Taoist philosophy. Then the practitioners of the temple transferred the food from the table to the altar, apparently in offering to the Bodhisattva. This involved a lot of chanting. Sometimes I still hear it.
At last it was time to begin the receiving of Tao and Dhamma. The men—myself, Ben, our friend Sanjoy, and a Buddhist monk—went first. We kneeled on cushions, repeated several chants, bowed very many times toward the altar, burned incense, and one of the practitioners burned a sheet of paper with all of our names on it.
When my name burned, it appeared on a list in Hell. If you name is on that list, you may never be sent to Hell. I had to have two people vouch that I was worthy to receive this honor. Piyak was one, but I am not sure who my second patron was.
Next it was the females’ turn. Only Hannah and one other woman, a stranger, received Tao and Dhamma that day.
Afterwards we retired to the first room, where Ben, Hannah, Sanjoy, the Buddhist monk, and I were treated to an hour long lecture on what had just occurred inside the temple, and we were taught how to write Tao in Chinese:
The two lines at the top, facing opposite directions, represent Yin-Yang, one of the most widely-known symbols of duality (good vs. evil; light vs. dark; happy vs. sad) in the world. The line directly below them represent a path, one that separates everything below it (humanity) from the strict and oppressive nature of duality. Below that line is a box with three sections. The first and last sections represent your two eyes, which Taoists believe you use to see the world in light filtered by duality. The middle section represents the third eye, which rests between the two on the bridge of your nose. Only very wise people can open the third eye and use it to understand the world as it truly is. The curved line on the left and below the eyes, the one that looks like a script L or a backwards J, is much like the straight line below Yin-Yang. It represents the Way or the Path, the method of understanding the world and opening the third eye.
More on everything to come!