Ex-Monk in Vancouver – Part II

Read Ex-Monk in Vancouver – Part I here.

A week after we went to Year of the Snake Asian Expo at BC Place, Nathan and I met up with our friend, Ronaldo, to check out the Thrangu Monastery (Tibetan Buddhist Temple) in Richmond. I wanted to learn more about Tibetan Buddhism, and also wanted to buy some mala beads for chanting in my meditation practice.

The monastery is beautiful with its golden roof, symbols of the 8 spoke wheel (to represent the eight-fold path), and rows of prayer wheels built into the outer walls.

We entered the monastery from the back, and came upon a hallway with photographs of the lama, and the temple during construction. We followed the hallway and ended up in the gift shop. Nathan was observing some artwork of the many forms of Buddha while Ronaldo and I perused the mala beads in the display case.

Suddenly, I hear someone calling Nathan’s name. Now it’s not uncommon for Nathan to know people in the most random places all about Vancouver. This includes restaurants, pubs, the skytrain, under bridges (kidding), etc. If he meets you, he will find a way in which he is connected to you…like some real life embodiment of Facebook. Seriously though, in a monastery?  Who on earth knows Nathan here.

I turn around, and it’s Ric adorned in monk garb. Ric hugged us both and introduced himself to Ronaldo. He taught us about the different Buddha forms in the artwork, and then in the distance, a gong began to ring.

“Do you have time to stay? The ceremony is about to begin!”

Before I knew it, Nathan, Ronaldo and I are ditching our shoes, and climbing the stairs into the Main Shrine Hall where we felt the eyes of a very large Buddha, 35 Buddhas of confession, and 500 smaller Medicine Buddhas.

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Thrangu Monastery – Main Shrine Hall. Photo taken from thrangumonastery.org

A very special ceremony (to end the past lunar year) was about to begin. We sat on cushions and chanted for two hours with the monks of the monastery while following along in a book. Nathan and I chanted in Tibetan which was us basically guessing what we thought the Tibetan words was going to sound like. Most times, I was way off. The chanting was very calming and it brought me great peace. The monks changed the rhythm, skillfully strung together words, and went full force on the biggest gong I have ever seen. You ever see those photos of monks with toned arms? I’m pretty sure it’s from gong’ing (no such word, but I now knight it with the meaning of “tone arms from hitting the gong”).

Ronaldo left part way through because of prior commitments. I had watched as he stood silently, bowed at Buddha and left the room. Just so you know, leaving is completely acceptable.

After two hours of chanting, it was officially break time. Ric took us on a tour of the monastery. He walked us around the outside, and encouraged me to spin the prayer wheels embossed with Om Mani Padmi Hum. By saying it aloud or in your mind, and spinning it on the wheel is equivalent to saying it 100 times.  I ran alongside the building, with my hand out and spun the row of prayer wheels in delight…with hopes that all sentient beings be freed from suffering.

When the break was over, we went back into the hall for another hour of chanting. When this hour was done, it was time for dinner. Ric’s wife and some of the other ladies have been in the kitchen this entire time creating a delicious feast. Nathan and I sat with strangers, and ate our meal. There was going to be a fire show, and another hour of chanting after dinner. However, Nathan and I had decided to go after dinner. On our way out, we met Lama Pema. He serenely smiled and nodded at us as we nodded and bowed at him. The only way I could describe this moment is that it felt very “namaste”.

What we thought was going to be a one hour visit turned out to be five hours of peace, calm, and friendship. Ric is more than just an ex-monk, he is a real-deal kind of friend.