While I was in Shanghai, China, I was invited to go somewhere that not a lot of Westerners get to see. Although there are Buddhist temples across the globe I was welcomed Into the Jade Buddha Temple (as well as a lot of other tourists!).
It was surprising that the temple still held the old style architecture while it is surrounded by the ever growing Shanghai metropolis.
As we got away from the big crowds we got to have a tour of the inside of the temple, but to enter we had to do something I have never seen before. Within the door their was a border that was about a foot high. What you had to do was to step over it to enter the temple. What makes this so significant is that this border is considered “Buddha’s Shoulder” and allows you to transition into the temple, just make sure that you do not step on top of it! Don’t disrespect!
Upon entering we were surprised to see that the temple was not just for tourists, it was functional as well!
I did get permission before taking their photographs from the tour guide. Because of media and a vivid imagination I only thought of monks as immortals that taught martial arts to the Chosen Ones. When I saw the monks in the temple I saw honor, respect, tranquility, and harmony (and no martial arts).
I saw water bottles and tissues bringing my fantasy back into reality that these were real people, devoting their lives to their beliefs and values. What would they be able to teach me about how I live my life?
I wanted to capture their photos not as subjects to be examined at a later date, but as genuine people that live a life completely different than how I understand the world. Could I or any other tourist be at the end of a Monk’s camera, wondering how we go about our live’s day to day?
Then I saw something that I did not expect to see. A cat.
I’ll tell you why this shocked me. In my mind I was very focused on being respectful, following the rules, and showing honor. This is for showing respect to the statues, not a bed! I thought, but then I thought something else. Kindness, friendship, love. By not minding this cat to sleep I could feel the friendliness of the temple, imagining the monks walk by that sleeping cat and smiling that it has chosen a temple of Buddha to take a nap.
What I did not capture was people praying and showing respect to the statues and Buddha.
That was a private moment for them that I would not feel comfortable getting on camera (especially without permission!!)
Walking further inside I saw the rest of the beautiful temple.
It was a place that stood against time that helped pray away sickness and struggles.
A place to find happiness, wealth, love, value, and peace.
Leaving the temple I could have sworn that Buddha granted me just a bit of inner peace as I continued to explore the beautiful city of Shanghai.
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