2015年9月10日 星期四

A Peek at Tsz Shan Monastery (慈山寺一瞥)

Intrigued by the blog of fellow blogger Tsz Mei, I thought I'd visit one of the newest and most beautiful temples in Hong Kong, the Tsz Shan Monastery in Tai Po

My very first view of the head of the Koon Yin in the path leading to the temple. it felt really odd to see a slightly bent head in white between tree tops and electric light poles!

After a walk of about 15 minutes, I finally reached what is called the "Tiger Gate" (虎門 ) or the first point of entry.

Once inside, I found the head of the Koon Yin above the roofs of the buildings there. To the left of the photo is the Drum Tower.

As I approached the hall where the guided tour would begin, the Koon Yin became bigger.

Right opposite the main entrance is a harbor.

In front of the harbor is a cluster of village houses.

The main entrance, in two flights of steps implying gradually rising towards wisdom.

Getting nearer to the assembly hall to the left now.

Looking back at the harbor.

The temple has been specially chosen in accordance with the principles of Feng Shui, with a mountain at its rear an open space and water in front.

An aerial view of the site of the temple from an internet photo showing its location.

A closer view of the harbor.

Finally the famous Koon Yin (Avalokitesvara) in full view.

Keeping guard over the main entrance: one of the two dharmapalas (護法神) or guards of the various sutras (經) or of  the boddhisattvas (菩提薩埵/菩薩) , ("dharma" means "the Buddha's way or methods" (佛法) and "bodhi"(菩提)means "enlightenment/ enlightened" (覺悟) and "sattva" means "sentient being" (有情眾生 ). This one is called  Vajrasattva (金剛薩埵 /密跡金剛力士/金剛手菩薩/金剛手秘密主/金剛上首/執金剛祕密主/執金剛菩薩/祕密主/金剛密跡主菩薩)  popularly known in China as "哼將". He is one of the oldest and most powerful of the Mahayana Buddhist pantheon which consists of 8 great bodhisattvas (八大菩薩) viz. Avalokitesvara (觀音菩薩), Maitreya (彌勒菩薩)、Ākāśagarbha bodhisattva mahāsattva (虛空藏菩薩)、Samantabhadra (普賢菩薩) 、Mañjuśrī (文殊菩薩) 、Kṣitigarbha (地藏菩薩)、Sarvanivāraņa-Vişkambhin (除蓋障菩薩) and finally Vajrasattva himself. He holds an axe  supposed to be made of diamond whose head is in the form of a lotus, the symbol of the wisdom of the Prajñāpāramitā or the Diamond Sutra (金剛般若波羅蜜經/佛說能斷金剛般若波羅蜜多經 normally abbreviated 金剛經.). "prajna" simply means "wisdom" and "paramita" means "perfection" or "completeness"

The other guard, one of the vidyā-rāja or niō (明王/持明王/忿怒尊/威怒王) who is supposed to represent the angry or strict disciplinarian side of the great Buddha. Within the generally pacifist tradition of Buddhism, stories of dharmapalas justified the use of physical force to protect cherished values and beliefs against evil. The nio may be seen as a manifestation of mahāsthāmaprāpta, (a bodhisattva mahāsattva that represents the power of wisdom) that often flanks Amitābha 阿彌陀佛 in Pure Land Buddhism (淨土宗) and  in Tibetan Buddhism (密宗) and Avalokiteśvara (Guanyin/Koon Yin ). His name literally means "arrival of the great strength". he is popularly known as the "哈將" because his mouth is open as if pronouncing that sound.

The plaque above the main entrance says: "Enter the Door of Liberation", presumably from all sufferings. We are supposed to leave behind us all the mistakes arising from our 5 skandha or aggregates or collections (五蘊)  viz. all matter, body or form (), feelings (), perceptions (), acts of will () and consciousness() ie. the five poisons (五毒) of avarice/greed ( 貪) anger and/hatred (瞋 ) stubborn persistence in attaching to our wrong ideas and conduct (痴), pride (慢) and suspicion (疑).  We were told at the entrance by our excellent guide ( whom I later learned from the other staffs was one of the three top guides of the temple) that all of us have the seed/potential to be become a buddha (which simply means one who has attained complete enlightenment in thought word and deed) and that all we need is knowledge of the methods of training and a determination to follow through such practices.

The view from the main entrance

One side of the huge courtyard behind the main entrance, the "Joyful Terrace"(歡喜地). It is completely empty nothing but the sky above and the earth below. That is supposed to be state we would attain if we followed through the Buddhist training: complete freedom from all kinds of mental and emotional suffering which we can consciously control, but not other misfortunes due to the way the world operates which are governed by chance and the laws of operation of the mundane world.

One of the front corridors with wooden pillars in the Tang  dynasty style: it is solid, simple, straight and uncluttered by non-essentials.

The Maitreya Hall 彌勒菩薩殿, the Maitreya is supposed to be a successor to the present Buddha, Gautama Buddha (also known as Śākyamuni Buddha) of this world  in Buddhist eschatology.The name "Maitreya" means "loving-kindness", which in turn is derived from the noun "mitra" or "friend". In the Maitreyavyākaraṇa which  suggests that he teaches meditative trance "sādhanā "( 修行) and states in which gods, men and other beings:" will lose their doubts, and the torrents of their cravings will be cut off: free from all misery they will manage to cross the ocean of becoming; and, as a result of Maitreya's teachings, they will lead a holy life. No longer will they regard anything as their own, they will have no possession, no gold or silver, no home, no relatives! But they will lead the holy life of oneness under Maitreya's guidance. They will have torn the net of the passions, they will manage to enter into trances, and theirs will be an abundance of joy and happiness, for they will lead a holy life under Maitreya's guidance."


The huge Koon Yin standing behind the hall. one of her hands holds a ball, a chintamani (or the chintamani stone) is a  traditional Hindu wish-fulling jewel, here presumably  symbolizing the attainment of wisdom/enlightenment, the other hand holding a bottle turned half down, pouring out her blessings flowing from the pursuit of the Buddhist way of life.

At the rear of the Maitreya Hall is an altar dedicated to the skanda (韋馱天 ) or (護法韋馱尊天菩薩)

The Skanda

The steps leading up to the Main Hall (大雄寶殿) of the great Buddha. In the distance, one sees three huge statues are there for worship

A view of the Maitreya Hall looking out from the centre of the steps leading up to the Main Hall.

The is the
Mañjuśrī Bodhsattva (文殊菩薩) usually seated left hand of the great Buddha, one of the great bodhisattva supposed to represent the decisiveness of using the Buddha's teaching to help the sentient beings cut off all attachments to things, people, thoughts, emotions which if left unchecked will lead to human suffering. He is usually represented in Buddhist paintings and statues as riding on a lion with a sword in his right hand but here, he is depicted as merely sitting on the wisdom of the lotus, with no sword in hand nor without any lion under him. 

This is the great Buddha

Below the great Buddha to his left is Mahakassapa (迦葉菩薩), generally acknowledged to be the founder of Zen Buddhism, generally portrayed as  smiling and is one of the 10 great disciples of the Buddha.

This is what I believe to be the Maitreya Bodhisattva, governing future. To his left is Ananda (亞難) who stands at the right hand side of Buddha. Ananda is the cousin of Buddha and is credited with  an excellent memory and it was he who either confirmed or refused to confirm in the various conferences gathered by the Buddhist monks to decide on what the Buddha truly said what Buddha was supposed to have said whilst the great master was still alive. 

A closer view of the bodhisattva

The terrace outside the Main Hall, surrounded by hills.

Some visiting monks to the monastery

Another visitor mounting the  steps of stone up the main hall. The stones are specially selected for their "wave patterns" to suggest that the wisdom of the buddhas is as voluminous as the water of the oceans.

A gift from Sri Lanka. This tree is supposed to be grown from a branch of the original bodhi tree where the Buddha was said to have become thoroughly enlightened.

A tree at one of the sides of the main hall

a number of gongs over a strip of water: the source of the Buddha's wisdom

Another fountain for water on the other side of the main hall

Wooden bowls for the water which can be used only as an offering to the Buddha but not for drinking. Here no joss sticks nor candles are used for worship.

A door ring at the rear of the Universal Gate Hall

The Koon Yin, a cloud to her left elbow. At 76 meter high, it's the tallest Koon Yin in the world.

Another tree at the courtyard to the left of the Main Hall.

a view of the courtyard from a corner.

This is the Vaiśravaṇa (多聞天王) jn the Universal Gate Hall (普門 or Koon Yin Hall) third of the 4 gods or Kings, in charge of the north, normally dressed in green armor. He holds an umbrella both to protect his heart from evils and pollution from the external world and also to protect the followers from the same. 

This is the Dhṛtarāṣṭra, (持國天王) the fourth of the 4 gods/kings in charge of the east, ruling with mercy. He holds a pipa whose strings must be wound neither too tightly nor too loosely, to suggest the Middle Way  (中道) of Nakajuna Bodhisattva (龍樹菩薩).  


This is Virūḍhaka (增長天王) in charge of the south. He is supposed to help nurture the Buddha seed in man's soul and usually holds a sword in his hand to symbolize the sword of wisdom which helps us to cut away all our troubles and is the 6th among the 20 great gods. The last is Virūpākṣa (廣目天王) in charge of the West, which I had no time to photograph. He is supposed to be able to oversee everything so as to supervise and protect the followers and normally dresses in red, holding a dragon or a snake in his left hand hand to symbolize changes in the world and a pearl on his other to symbolize his steady resolve to follow the Buddhist way.

The Cintacakar Avalokitesvara (如意觀音), a koon yin with 6 arms and a wheel, supposed to turn the fate of the followers. Are the 6 arms supposed to represent the Koon Yin's help of sentient beings (sattva)  in the realms where they would be reincarnated according to their karma (業) in their previous lives before having attained complete enlightenment on in the cycles of Bhavacakra (六度輪迴) viz. deva (天道), asura (修羅道/魔道)  manushya (人道), jantu (畜生道), preta (餓鬼道) and naraka  (地獄道)?

The Koon Yin in the dusk: how peaceful she looks

A final look at the Koon Yin

The Brilliance Pond (洛迦池) in front of the Hall of Universal Gate.

The pond is built with two concentric discs with water running all the time, symbolizing the incessant movement of human life, which runs in never ending cycles. 

Some reflections on the surface of the mirror like pond

More reflections showing the sky and the surroundings.

The fountain head in the middle. We are supposed to "reflect" on what we do, what we think and how we feel all the time so as to be able to monitor and control  our thoughts and feelings.

A tree at the side of the pond

Flowers at the foot of the tree.

A close up of some of them. I left with peace and flowers in my heart and a new understanding of the various Buddhist deities.The guided tour was excellent. So was the free coffee and the chocolate cake at the end of the tour. But I understand that they also teach calligraphy, copying the sutras, the rites of offering water, Tea Zen Meditations, and Walking Zen Meditations.