Space at the Lingyin Temple Hangzhou
The Osmanthus lined the path to the Lingyin Temple. Its peachy scent wafted between the call of a bird flute (played by a girl in the doorway of the single shop)
and the touch of rocks
by the hands of the many pilgrims who climb
The Buddha laughs
as well he might.
It is a strange thing that all at once the great religions of the China (and the rest of the world) suddenly evolved around 500 years BCE. However Buddha, Confucius, Tao just gave advice for good living, and considered themselves philosophers rather than gods. But, just as every man sees a face in the moon so he also has a natural inclination to make gods of men who have gone before him, as an explanation of why life goes wrong... or right.
It may be a bronze man
or a bronze woman
who need to be pacified with incense
each curving roof (upturned to divert the raindrops) festooned with animals of specified number.
In 328AD Master Huili came by horse
and established this temple 'opposite the Peak Flying from Afar', 'west of the West Lake' of Hangzhou with 'North Peak' as background and surrounded by woods. Here there many pavillions halls and rooms, and once 3000 monks discussing Zen. Since 1949 the temple has been renovated and rebuilt, and was the first temple 'open to the outside' in 1978. Now, each day, there are visitors as well as monks. There is little time for meditation except in the brief few moments it takes to waft around incense and arrange three sticks - past, present and future - in the sand.
People mill around, chatter, pray but do not contemplate. The world is now too crowded and there is too much to do. But behind the temple I discovered a lane.
And as my guide sheltered under an Osmanthus, I took a few steps along it on my own. Soon the voices died away and I knew at last it was possible, even in a nation of 1.3 billion people, to find a place alone and think: what am I doing with my life? Why am I here? Where do I go now?