Category Archives: Daily Life

The Venerable Chung Zern of Chen Yen Szu, Taiwan.

Back to Taiwan, how many days was that ago! A small group of us went to this temple towards the end of my stay in Taiwan. There was a bit of a problem as we approached the temple. I’d quite forgotten to take off my slippers when leaving the city temple and a solution had to be found which involved me in switching shoes with the lay woman with us. The car load could not be convinced that the same problem then existed for the lay woman, i.e. the wrong shoes.

This was rather a brief visit. We looked round the new temple which had been completed about two years ago. It was really very nice looking however, it was explained to us, not very practical in design. One example of this was a big water feature running through the temple buildings which they could not use. Problem being that frogs had started to breed and kept everybody awake at night. Also there was fears of killing the frogs during cleaning…so they have a permanently dry water feature!

We had lunch with the disciples of the Abbess in the kitchen and the rest of the visiting nuns and lay devotees had theirs in a large room off the kitchen. It was all open to the outdoors and very very hot. As we talked about the temple and the multiple problems they had with its design, building and maintenance it emerged that they actually all still lived in the old temple. They preferred it over the new one as it was more comfortable and familiar to them. I was really touched by this small band of nuns training together up a mountain. They were very pressing in wanting me to stay longer or to come back to stay longer in the future. I must confess I did entertain the idea for a few moments however it is unlikely I’d be able to do that. What a beautiful setting and, as it happened, just across the valley from the mountain temple of my host for the weeks stay in Taiwan.

In this mountain area of Taiwan there are many temples small and large, the area is called Puli.



Rev. Chung Zern with her disciple walk in the new temple. Rev. Chung Zern is a disciple of Rev. Kim Seng and my Dharma Aunt. She is one of only three female disciples of Rev. Kim Seng. The other three being Rev. Master Jiyu-Kennett (the first one) and Rev. Seck Lee Seng of Cheng Hoon Teng, Melaka.

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Hotspot

Part of this journey involves finding a fast Internet connection to ‘upload’ photographs. I am starting to think the one I have at the moment comes at too high a price! I am not sure what the word is to describe what is simply a very ‘interesting’ situation at this very moment.

Cheng Hoon Teng is ‘historic’, many tourist visit it each day and when they step through the temple gate and enter the main shrine room it is like stepping back in time. Here is ancient China and Buddhism (as well as a couple of other religions too it would seem) kept alive by the faithful in this town. There is a minor city road at the front of the property and a very major one running along the back. So much traffic on a narrow road. Thankfully the road is only about one and half car widths, + a few motor bikes, wide so crossing it to get to this Internet Cafe was not completely death defying! However now here and connected, embraced as I am by surround sounds, I question the wisdom of slipping out of the back door of the temple in search of fast connectivity.

Let’s see now, the cars, tour buses, motorbike, bicycles, lorries and people on foot pass on two sides within feet of where I sit typing this. The cafe, having walls on only two sides the rest only closed by wooden shutters at night is hot and humid. Just to my left is a water feature, blessed water pouring from a bamboo pipe into a circular stone then cascading into a large pottery bowl. The loud Mexican music from the speaker just above my head is the real test! I see that the temperature is a mere 32c. What I thought was steam pouring from the building I now realize is water being sprayed onto the outside tables which are on the pavement. This, yes this is to keep the customers cool, wonderful!

So there you have it, a block away an ancient temple opens it’s doors to all comers to make their bows and say their prayers, offer joss sticks, light candles and offer oil to keep the eternal light burning. Then here, a couple of hundreds yards through the temple complex, a wireless internet connection. They are called ‘hotspots’ by the way!

The fact that this journey can be shared through the medium of the Internet adds a dimension, of offering I guess, that simply seems ‘good’ to do. It does take working at and I am only so glad and grateful that I am able to continue to type…and remain on my feet! Not both at the same time of course.

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Daily Life Practice On the Road.

Since the last posting I found out that the road we had taken from the airport was closed due to flooding soon after we passed in the small hours of the morning. So, glad we got through.

The first day in Taiwan? Can I remember back that far? Yes, lunch with the Master and his newly ordained disciple and maybe up to 15 lay practitioners as well. Then to the lecture hall in town to sit and drink tea and attempt to communicate what it is I am hoping to do while in Taiwan. Latter we (the Master and his three disciples)climbed into the temple mini bus and drove for perhaps two and half hours, at a sedate pace, to the temple in the central mountain area. I am growing used to the scale of the temples here however that first sight of the place where we were to stay was breathtaking. Since then, the following day in fact, we went to a temple where over 1000 monks and nuns live and practice.

The next day, at 6.00 am the nun and I were eating breakfast in the kitchen of the guest house and by 8.00 we were in the Master’s car heading off for a tour into the higher mountains. I could see that the nun was driving with full awareness that she was driving her Master’s car although there were a couple of times I couldn’t help myself and encouraged her to drive closer to the right side of the road! (As I write this she is trying to tell me something via an electronic dictionary, it might be something about the virus attack warnings that keep popping up on this computer which I would really like to fix but the owner seems not to be concerned. Language difficulties again….). The most memorable place we visited was a temple above a lake where we met an 85 year old nun who had become a nun when she was ten years old. (Now the nun traveling with me is trying to tell me not to be anxious about the virus attack! The dictionary has come up with “to be affected by poison”, yes I think that describes this computer so I had better get off quickly….)

To cut a long story short I am in the high mountains using the computer in a store next to the place where I will stay tonight. We have walked in the tropical mountain forest this afternoon and it is all captured on video. Today I’ve also been aided by Millie, a young woman who kindly took a day off work to translate for me. Thank you Millie if you are reading this, please post a comment if you want to.

This morning we went to a temple where there are 60 nuns training. We had tea with the Abbess and I think it has been arranged that we will go and stay there on Friday night so I can get a feel for monastic training in a medium size temple where only nuns practice. If things sound vague it is because arrangements have the habit of changing very quickly. For example I thought we would only be away from the city temple one night and it turns out we will be away for three…or is it four!?

I really do need to get off this computer as the pop up messages are getting more and more serious, the nun is standing to my right mentally wringing her hands – well I would be in her position – and the TV is loud in my left ear. This is just a small picture of how life is for me on a moment to moment level.

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A Pilgrimage to East Asia

The following article was first published in the Print Friendly, PDF & Email