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08:39 Aug 06 2009

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Weekend Buddhists
08:36, August 06, 2009  
Weekend Buddhists

They are lawyers, entrepreneurs, engineers and artists, different in their weekday worlds, but sharing a common identity as “weekend Buddhists.”

Taking time out to live a simple temple life has become popular with professionals and executives in recent years, all keen to escape their hectic city lives.

In the past few years, temples such as the Huayan Temple in Chongqing have begun to accept a special group of visitors, everyday people wanting a taste of part-time religious life.

Not completely converting to Buddhism, the weekend visitors stay for a few days, wear traditional clothing, enjoy simple vegetarian meals and potter about, contemplating the universe and relaxing their minds.

Chaoyang Temple in Huairou district, Beijing, has 20 guest rooms for visitors, mainly occupied by weekend Buddhists.

“Generally 10 to 20 people come here every weekend. Apart from shaving their heads, they live the same way as monks do in the temple,” said lay Buddhist Yaorong, a volunteer at Chaoyang Temple.

Liu Gang runs his own private enterprise and began to make temple visits two months ago. At first, the hard bed, strict regiment and time schedule at the temple were almost impossible to bear. “I immediately went back home that night,” Liu explained. However, with perseverance, everything got easier.

“Master Mingzhuang told me that calm comes from gradual practice. I realized that it was a waste of life to sleep after attending daily morning service. Their rules and commandments also taught me that living on the wild side is not so great after all.”
“After the short-term monk life, I can face pressure with a calm mind and I am not as anxious as I was before.”

Director of a consulting company in Beijing, Luo Jingxin and her friends spent a week at Guangren Temple on Wutaishan, Shanxi Province last year and she has made several temple visits since.

“During those days in the temple, we were so far away from the neon lights in the city. No radio, no TV. Living there was an opportunity to think quietly: What do I want? What on earth could make me happy?” Luo explained.

Wang Yuan said that she enjoys temple life as it is free from competition and simple frugality can provide a mental massage.

“I learnt Za-zen, tasting tea and playing the ancient Chinese zither at Chaoyang Temple. Real life should be clean and simple like this,” Wang added.

Cheng Ran is one of the organizers of a Buddhist summer camp. According to Cheng, since the 1990s Chinese people have began to pay more attention to activities that involve the heart and spirit and have sought consolation and help from books, philosophy and religion.

The popularity of Nan Huaijin, a famous Chinese writer whose books are zen-based, is an example. “In recent years, Buddhism, which has intimate links with Chinese culture, has gained the favor of high-income, high-education and high-rank groups,” Cheng said.

Aside from these groups, temples are extending their hands to people from all sectors of the community.

In 1993, monk Jinghui of Bailin Temple in Henan Province started a Buddhism in Life summer camp aimed at college students. The camp advocated Buddhist traditions and taught young people how to carry the teachings into everyday life.

In the past four years, many Buddhist holy lands including Emeishan, Wutaishan and Jiuhuashan began holding similar summer camps and Being a Weekend Buddhist activities to help spread their message and relieve people from pressure.

“The tenet of Buddhism is universal salvation. Carrying Buddhism into real life to help the living is correctly complying with the religion’s original idea,” said Master Daojian from Huayan Temple.

According to Daojian, most weekend Buddhists can adapt to the temple, which not only helps them build a positive attitude toward life and a harmonious relationship with nature, but also shortens the distance between Buddhism and common people.

Master Xuecheng, vice-president of the Buddhist Association of China said, “Changing your living environment for a time is beneficial and this short-term experience will be more widely-accepted in the future. But what’s important and really helpful is not where you are living, but your understanding of Buddhism.”

Source: Global Times

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