Friday, December 28, 2007

Dharma classes in Beijing

Dhammaloka has been travelling and teaching in China for some weeks now; he sends us this report from Beijing -

“Its cold in Beijing, but luckily the people here are very warm-hearted and welcoming. Like those in other Asian countries, the Chinese are very hospitable, friendly, and generous. Many have a lovely sense of humour and curiosity, and wish nothing more than to live a meaningful life of relative safety and prosperity in peace and harmony with the rest of the world. How saddening it is that so many people in the West have an entirely misguided view of China and the Chinese!

Sure, there is a lot of materialism and consumerism as well, probably no less than in the West. And, perhaps, Chinese people can even match Westerners in terms of pride and conviction that their culture is the greatest of all. It is about 15 months ago I was last in Beijing, and once again the city is difficult to recognize – apart from anything else, there are so many new and spectacular buildings.

I have been here for a little more than a week now, and it has been a busy and truly interesting time. it has been wonderful to be with my friends again. Our first public event was in the "Purple Spring Heart Wisdom Centre," a newly opened, rather posh and somewhat club-like centre for all sorts of spiritual events. They were keen to have me (a Westerner) there, probably as a boost to their publicity, but as they were willing to host our events ‘by donation’ I didn't mind. Some 20 or more people joined us for an introductory evening class on awareness and meditation. As in Malaysia some three weeks ago, we followed this up with an 'Urban Retreat.' With the help of my friend Yinhua, I was able to offer them daily support by email. My Chinese not being quite up to scratch, it's been difficult for me to see in detail how they have been getting on, but Yinhua tells me of grateful comments and occasional questions—so I take it they are gaining something.

A highlight has been a series of morning meetings with cancer patients at one of the most famous hospitals for traditional Chinese medicine, many of whom had been ill for many years. While the doctors are using Western medicine for diagnostic purposes, they treat the disease using traditional means, complemented by Chi Gong, breathing exercises, and working with support groups. We’d been asked to introduce meditation and mindfulness practice - I was happy to respond, but did so with some hesitation as I’ve never before worked with such severely ill people. Our meetings included some wonderful and touching encounters. Beautiful in particular to see how these people responded to the metta bhavana - they obviously felt they’d been given a precious gift, very well suited to complement their approach of living with, rather than against, the cancer.

Only a few days are left before I'll be returning to the West. I'll be sad to leave. More than ever have I felt that the time is ripe for a modern form of Buddhism to be presented in Beijing and China.

Interestingly, whilst still in Malaysia, I had a long conversation with a monk friend who has a lot of first-hand experience of China and the resurgence of Chinese Buddhism. He very strongly expressed his conviction that, for Buddhism to again take root in China, it will have to be introduced largely by bypassing the existing Buddhist organisations. Like me, he too felt that NOW is the time for that to happen.

Here you are—and Beijing and China are waiting for you. Please contact me, and we'll figure out how you can help making the new age really become a NEW AGE.

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