I don’t have my notes from the days we were traveling however I do want to let you know about those days and post photographs too. That will have to wait until I am able to hook my laptop up to the Internet. Just for the record here is what happened:
In the south of Taiwan we met up with a woman called Linzy (not her Chinese name but one I could at least remember and pronounce). I had come to know her via email and telephone and she had helped me a great deal with making plans for me in Taiwan. Linzy had spent a year at Lancaster University and meditated with the Lancaster Group (who hasn’t meditated with the Lancaster Group?!!) so she was familiar with our practice and monks of the Order. I’d been put in touch with her through a member of the Leicester Group. Thank you Linzy, thank you so much for all of the translating you did while we were together.
While in Linzy’s home town we met up with a nun who leads chanting of the Lotus Sutra for 5 and 7 day ‘retreats’ at temples that invite her. She had just come back from mainland China. It turns out that she is very well know in Taiwan and East Asia and I can understand why as just seeing her leaves a deep impression let alone being with here chanting for a week. I’d seen her briefly at Shasta Abbey in 2003 when a group came from Singapore and thought I’d like to get to know her. Our few hours together where, in a word, amazing! We went shopping at a robe factory and she me bought a brown wool cape, we drank coffee at a road side cafe from beans grown by her lay disciples, we had lunch and most especially we laughed together, it was so much fun to be with her. All this without a common language. Linzy’s help was invaluable.
A day or so latter we visited my Dharma Aunt who is both blood sister and ordination sister of Seck Lee Seng the Abbess of Cheng Hoon Teng. She was one of the main reasons for going to Taiwan and sadly there was very little time left to spend much more than a morning with her. We had lunch with her five disciples and 60+ lay guests who had just completed 7 days of chanting one thing, Amitofu, Amitofu…..etc. More monks and nuns I will not forget. All pressing me to come back and stay longer.
On the Friday night I had the chance to speak to a group of people, perhaps 50 to 60 of them, who had come to the city temple where I’d been based. For the first time I spoke into a microphone (no wires attached and who knows how that works,) anyway it was liberating. By not having to project ones voice a lot of the tension around talking in public simply dissolved. Linzy had come by train to do translating for the evening and during the next day. On the Saturday night there was another talk in another center connected to the Master who was my host. That seemed to go well with the Master translating. Lay practice in the east is impressive, so much so that I had to restrain myself from going on and on about how impressed I was and am. Here in Malaysia it is the same, the word Devotee really does describe what I see. I’ll have to write more about that another time.
Last day, Sunday, found me at Dharma Drum Mountain Temple near Taipei, the temple of Master Sheng Yeng (somebody correct my spelling please). I went here to meet a 6 year nun who I’d met at Throssel when she was staying as a lay resident. Yes, she had sat with the Lancaster Group while at Lancaster University and just happened to be friends with Linzy as well. I can assure all those who know her that she is a shining example, very definitely shining. Yes, I am talking about the former Ming Ting.
I can’t sign off from Taiwan without a final mention of gratitude to the couple who picked me up at the airport, drove so many miles when we went south for three days and who finally scooped me up after the talk on Saturday night and placed me in a fabulous hotel room for the night. And then next day, driving all day to Dharma Drum Mountain and back to their home near the airport, feeding and housing me, telling me the breath taking story of their life and sending me on my way to Malaysia with coffee, mamalade and toast at the airport. Their friend, Clare, was with us for 24 hours doing a great job of translating. Thank you Clare.