Tuesday, August 07, 2012

2012 International Youth Seminar on Life and Ch'an in Taiwan Day 1


 This blog post details the start of my two-week "EAT PRAY TRAVEL" adventure in Taiwan. To know how I was able to join the 2012 International Youth Seminar on Life and Ch'an and how you can join too in the future as this happens every year, please head to this post: 2012 International Youth Seminar on Life and Ch'an: Taiwan Pre-Departure Preparations

Fo Guang Shan Mabuhay Temple, the sponsor for this seminar, has an ongoing event this month which you can visit so you can also make inquiries and find out more about their other socio-cultural affairs. You can read my post about that here: One-Stroke Calligraphy Exhibition of Venerable Hsing Yun

Oh, and here's a post I did the moment I got home after two weeks... just because one of my co-delegates looks like Harry Potter. Hehehe. Spot the Filipino Harry Potter Look-Alike and Some Thoughts for the Coming Days


July 18, 2012

It was a little before 5 pm when I arrived at the Fo Guang Shan (FGS) Mabuhay Temple along Pablo Ocampo St. in Malate, Manila. My hubby was with me. Since there was just one other delegate who arrived earlier than we did (Jove), my hubby thought of catching an early dinner since that would be our last before I fly off to Taiwan to participate in the 2012 International Youth Seminar on Life and Ch'an.

Dave Albao, one of the organizers, approached me to hand me my passport, Taiwan visa and other papers I needed to fill out and sign like the health agreement form. He also handed the documents I submitted before which he won't be needing anymore.

Between 5:30-6:00 pm, other delegates started arriving as well, including our good friend Chito. I recommended him to be one of the delegates as well and he too was approved.

Soon after that, Dave and Marlon (one of the group leaders) started handing out jackets, flags and CDs. Bags were also weighed to distribute kilos among the baggage and packages for the flight.

We had dinner at around 7pm then after paying a visit to the main shrine, we were serenaded by temple volunteers with a lovely song/chant as we boarded the shuttle that will take us to the airport. ***When visiting Buddhist temples, visitors are required to pay respects to the shrine after arrival and before departure.  

At the airport, the luggage and packages were arranged and then we checked-in. We went through immigration without a hitch and soon enough, by 10:00pm, we were already at Gate 109 of NAIA Terminal III waiting to board. Perhaps, it helped that we were all wearing Addidas jackets with the Philippine logo. And since each of us was carrying two ukuleles, it would seem like we were on the Philippine Ukulele Team or something. LOL!

July 19, 2012

The flight from Manila to Taipei took two hours. The ride was a bit bumpy due to weather conditions but overall, the flight was fine. We safely landed at Taoyuan airport at around 12:35 am on Thursday. We then took a special shuttle to the FGS Temple in Kaohsiung which took about 5.5 hrs including 2 stopovers.

Stopovers were done at gas stations and it meant bathroom breaks. I noticed that their public bathrooms were clean with lots of cubicles. One section was for the squatting toilet type and another section was for the regular sitting toilet type. There was also an abundance of tissue. There were even faucets and sinks meant for kids. They looked cute. ^_^

Near the bathrooms was a 7-11 store which they call OPEN since the place is open 24/7. The store sells all sorts of snacks, drinks and other goodies.

By 6:30 am, we arrived at the FGS temple in Kaohsiung, was greeted by Ven. Miao Jing then  we proceeded to the dormitory rooms in the cloud dwelling building to check-in our bags. We then headed to the 2nd floor assembly area where we waited for further instructions. It was there where various groups assembled before heading to the great dining hall for breakfast.

Observing how buddhists dine was such an extraordinary but efficient affair. Each of the groups formed 2 lines and one by one went to the dining hall led by their respective team leaders. Silence was observed the whole time. All of us seated accordingly. Then one by one, the venerable masters arrived and took their seats too. Prayer through chanting was performed with palms joined. Then we all sat down as vegetarian dishes were served by assigned personnel. (I later found out that most of these personnel were volunteers and/or retreat participants as I also did my fair share of serving dinner the following week during my meditation retreat.)

In 15 minutes or less, all 1,500+ of us were already done eating. The assigned kitchen staff efficiently took turns cleaning up the mess while the participants left the dining hall in an organized manner. Taking of pictures are not actually allowed in the dining hall. But I guess since it was our first day and wed didn't know any better, they just let us be.

My friend Chito even took a video of the silent meal. Check it out here: http://vimeo.com/46556602

Come 8 am, the Philippine delegates who arrived that morning (13 of us) registered and  got our bags, shirts, handbooks, pens, USBs and IDs. Those staying for the meditation retreat (me and Ray), also made the $100 deposit.

We had a few minutes of free time so some of us took a bath first so we could wear the uniform given. Yup, this is the very first out of the country travel I did that I only had a few clothes packed since we only got to wear two shirts the whole duration of the seminar. The trick is to wash the worn shirt at the end of the day so I'd have something to wear the next day.

Then come 9:20-11am, we had the welcoming ceremony.

A game was played where each one of the delegates was handed a sheet with 16 boxes with various descriptions. We all have to go mingle with different delegates from other countries, introduce ourselves and match that description to another delegate. Once a match is found, the delegate has to write his/her name on it until all the descriptions are matched at the given amount of time. There was also some kind of dancing to make the game more lively and fun.

After the welcoming acitivity, we were all asked to go to our particular groups, get to know each other a bit more before heading to the dining hall once again in an orderly fashion, this time, for lunch. As usual, there was prayer through chanting, distribution of food, and reminders of rules afterwards told in both Chinese and English.

After lunch, the delegates were given some time to rest but had to go back to the assembly hall at 12:50 so we can all start the Opening Ceremony on time. We all walked to the auditorium under the heat of the sun.


During the opening ceremony, delegates from each country were introduced. Afterwards, various venerable masters as well as FGS lecturers were introduced with Venerable master Hsing Yun giving the inspirational keynote speech about humanistic buddhism.

At around 2:30 - 3:30 pm, Buddhist Etiquette lecture was given by Ven. Man Ti. It was emphasized that dignity must be upheld and maintained by monastics at all times. The four etiquettes were then discussed:

1. Join palms at chest level as if carrying water.
2. Stand tall and erect as if carrying oil atop the head.
3. Look ahead and watch the back, taking high steps in movement.
4. Turn left and right, lift your gaze only half way.

To be able to constantly maintain etiquette and movements as such, one's role as a Buddhist bhiksu shall not go to waste. 

Furthermore, Ven. Man Ti also showed the proper way to walk, stand, sit and sleep which is why buddhists walk like the wind, stand like a pine, sit like a bell and sleep like a bow.

Other important etiquette reminders were also taught  like the five contemplations at meal time and how to behave at the dining hall, where the proper placement of the food should be and how to eat.

Other important stuff also followed like proper monastic living, rules for communal living, the meaning of the robes, roles and duties in a monastery and many more.

After the talk, we all went back to the assembly hall to further orient ourselves with our group members. Since we have some time to spare, some groups visited the main shrine and paid their respects so we can also practice how to do the proper prostration (bowing to the Buddha statues as a sign of respect for what they represent). I wasn't able to take photos there since they said it wasn't allowed. However, on my last day there (Aug. 1), I saw a lot of tourists taking photos so I just followed their lead too. Hehehe.

Then it was time for dinner once again.

But before I went in line, I dropped by this peaceful garden called the Lumbini Garden. I thought that if I'd have time to spare, perhaps I can hang out here and just write. Unfortunately, our schedule was very hectic, hence this one and only shot at Lumbini Garden, thanks to Quennie.

Then dinner time... Same routine was done altho no more chanting at dinner time and no more after meal prayers. Once done with the meal, one can just stand up, silently pull back the chair and leave the dining hall which left a lot of free time for the delegates. That was when I finally took a bath and rested a bit.

At 7:10 pm, the delegates once again assembled so we could all go to the designated Chinese or English class about Buddhist Doctrines. For the Chinese class, Ven. Hui Kai gave the lecture and for the English class, Ven. Hui Feng took over the class. 

The delegates from the Phillipines took Ven. Hui Feng's class. It was fun-filled as he is such a funny and witty lecturer/monk from New Zealand. He taught us how good thoughts attract good things and how they can make anything possible. It actually resonated with the keynote speech of Ven. Master Hsing Yun such that we should not focus on bad thoughts, that we should let go of grudges and always strive to see the good in life.  

In particular,  Ven. Hui Feng  discussed the 8 forms of dissatisfaction.

1. Birth
2. Old Age
3. Disease
4. Death

The first four are basically what the human cycle is all about. 

5. Not getting what one wants
6. Being separated from what we love
7. Association with what we hate
8. five aggregates of fuel

One of the keys to feeling happy is to reduce our needs and expectations. More often than not, these are the culprits of our suffering.  

He also discussed types of dissatisfaction:

1. suffering - painful experiences
2. change - pleasant experiences
3. conditioning - all experiences are conditioned

It is important to note that everything changes. Nothing is fixed. So we should train our mind how to react and respond accordingly. We always have the power to choose to react positively rather than negatively. It all starts with our mind... how we think. So we must nurture good thoughts so we can say good things and do good acts. 

The evening ended with the Philippine team gathering for some words of inspiration from Ven. Miao Jing and Dave Albao. It was almost 10 pm. Lights were supposed to be out by 10 pm. So you can just imagine how fast I took a shower and prepared for bed. However, there were still so many other delegates from other countries who stayed up late that night just mingling in the common areas, drying their hair, doing the laundry, etc. I never lived in a dorm... more so a lavish dorm in a Buddhist temple so this was one exciting experience for me.

Til my next post!


Mer said...

Wow, you did so much. I love the Philippine jacket. :) Seriously, 2 shirts lang? I bet the other delegates wore theirs without washing for 2 or 3 days before finally washing them. Hehehhe...

Jennifer Adams-Juan said...

Mer, actually, you're right! One of my co-delegates (Ray) said that one of his roommates didn't wash his shirts, didn't even shower or brush his teeth upon waking up. No wonder some of them were really smelling already. ^_^

Rizza Gatchalian said...

So cool! I haven't been here. I love your photos!

Franc Ramon said...

I hope you were able to visit Taipei 101, Tamshui and other popular Taiwan attraction. This seems like such an enriching experience.

Franc Ramon said...

It's good that you were also able to learn new concepts and culture from this trip.

Ces Alcasid said...

Hi mare! Very descriptive article mo as if I'm there w you. Cant believe you only brought 2 shirts. Haha. Nice pictures too! Thanks for sharing!

Jennifer Adams-Juan said...

Thanks Rizza! Thanks Franc!

Franc, we did visit a lot of Taipei attractions. Will blog about them soon. :)

Jennifer Adams-Juan said...

Mare, kakaibang Jen Adams tong nagpunta sa Taiwan. Kahit ako di makapaniwala. But so worth it. :)

maspaborito.com said...

What a great learning experience for you!

Visited Taipei in May this year. Beautiful place. I was impressed that the city had lots of green spaces. Lots of neighborhood parks. Loved the food. Would love to return to Taiwan and visit other areas.

Khakiness said...

I imagined myself to be in your shoes while I was reading. I don't think I could ever survive the silent meal. And even if I do, I think that it would be such a sacrifice. But when I got to the part where meditation is done during meal time, I actually understood why these monks have been able to carry out the silent meals.

roviedear said...

wowww!! this travel post made me feel so envious of you!! :) galing naman. keep on postin great travel events :)

Rovie, The Bargain Doll

Ria Hazel said...

LUCKY! You get to represent na and travel at the same time :) I wanna go to Taiwan too, kaso my agenda is to see the F4. :D I also wanna see the big buddhas.

fyhmd said...

This seems to be a type of activity that fits a sociable type of personality. How was it interacting with other co-delegates from other countries? I don't think I can do that ice-breaker activity you described! Hehe.

Jennifer Adams-Juan said...

Rizza, thanks! :)

Jennifer Adams-Juan said...

maspaborito, Taipei is indeed beautiful. I hope to come back again. :)

Jennifer Adams-Juan said...

Khakiness, if I can do it, so can you. :)

Jennifer Adams-Juan said...

Roviedear, watch out for the next parts of this series. :)

Jennifer Adams-Juan said...

Ria, I wanted to see F4 too but my sched has been so hectic. Oh, you will love the buddhas! :)

Jennifer Adams-Juan said...

fyhmd, you wouldn't believe it when I tell you that I'm the extremely introverted type. So if I was able to survive this, you'd also do so... with flying colors even! :)


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