Longhua Buddhist Temple, Buddha’s Nirvana Day in Shanghai; and Perhaps a Message from Buddha
“Nirvana Day,” the anniversary date of Buddha’s passing fell on March 7 this year. We were included in a celebration, so we got to see the Longhua Buddhist Temple and Monastery, the oldest and largest active Buddhist temple in Shanghai. It was first built in 242 AD in the style of the Song Dynasty. Since then, it has been destroyed and rebuilt many times. The nearby Longhua Pagoda was built in the 10th century.
This statue is a representation of the Eastern King of Protection for Buddhist territory in heaven and earth. He is holding a pipa, a four-stringed Chinese lute, and protecting all living creatures.
Barry and I had been invited by Dean Mao, the very friendly and jovial head of the SHNU Financial College, to eat lunch there at the temple which we knew would have vegetarian meals. We expected a bowl of humble, but tasty, noodles.
Laura, our terrific Shanghai Normal University contact, came too.
And two 20-year-old Italian visitors from Florence were part of our luncheon group.
Instead of humble noodles, which were available outside for a little more than a dollar, we got to have a spectacular vegetarian buffet with about 200 choices.
Even the fake meats and seafood, which aren’t usually very good, were flavorful and beautifully presented. For example the Japanese baked eel, in terms of look, texture, and taste seemed like genuine fine and fresh seafood. We were surprised and impressed–and had fun trying many dishes.
Although Dean Mao had to leave for a meeting, the rest of us stayed to talk–and continue eating, of course. We learned more about Laura and her family, and the Italian students told us about their concerns in getting future jobs.
As we were there chatting, a Chinese woman came and sat down at the end of our table. She said something, but I didn’t understand, and at first I thought that because the restaurant was crowded, she just needed a place to sit since the table with her group was too crowded. That wasn’t it.
She must have been hungry. She took Carra’s chopsticks that were on the table, wiped them off with a napkin, and gathering all our mainly empty plates in front of her, began eating all our leftovers! We continued talking to one another.
The woman was middle-aged and dressed O.K.; she was a little round, so she wasn’t starving, and she definitely knew how to take care of herself. When she was finished with our dishes, she got up without fanfare and left. However, a few minutes later, she was back. She had picked out her own dessert and sat to eat it too.
We think Buddha would have approved of her actions. And she is much smarter than the Chinese man we saw in McDonald’s on the Bund. He was clearing tables and eating the leftover food there; he did not look healthy.
It’s easy for us to have a segued view of China. Barry and I are surrounded by Chinese students who have families that can send them to university. Zhejiang Province is forested and has good farm land and economically strong cities like Hangzhou and Shanghai. Although we’ve seen humble dwellings and the no heat in public buildings south of the Yangtze River seems harsh to us, we haven’t really seen poverty. In fact, we’ve seen people who work very hard and are excited about their growing opportunities.
We have so much that it is easy to forget that many people in the world suffer; some suffer in ways we can not comprehend. That also seems a message from Buddha that we got on the anniversary of his Nirvana Day.
Aloha and zaì jiàn, Renée