Woke up around 0900, showered and had breakfast at the hotel. Pretty much your standard everyday hotel breakfast serving sausages, eggs and the lot. After a solitary breakfast (sniff) I went back to room, got ready and went out.
Took the MTR to Central and walked to the Star Ferry. Got confused for a bit – there were no signs to Pier 6 where I could take a ferry to Lantau Island. Tried asking a guy who looked local but didn’t really understand what he said. In the end I decided to follow a couple of tourists who seemed to know where they were going. Walked quite a distance, passing by the bus station and finally reached Pier 6. I could see the magnificent Four Seasons Hotel which would be completed in 2005.
Bought a ferry ticket to Lantau Island, it costs HKG$21. Bought another bottle of a 500ml mineral water for HKG$5 before boarding the ferry. On the way I could see lots of small islands – nice view for sure but I decided to take a short nap instead. Woke up 35 mins later at Mui Wo (Silvermine Bay) and queued up for Bus 2 to get to Po Lin Monastery. The bus ride costs HKG$16 per journey; you have to have exact change. I didn’t want to end up like a few tourists in front of me who had to get off the steps to get the change so I used my Octopus card.
The bus ride itself was an experience. I sat next to the window; very beautiful view but also felt very unsafe. We were going up a mountain and the roads were small and winding and the bus driver wasn’t exactly driving slowly. We passed by the Shek Pin Reservoir, very blue water and from there we could see the back of the Giant Buddha atop a mountain.
We reached Po Lin Monastery around 1200, there were quite a few people around. I was already feeling very calm and serene. I headed for the temple first. Bought a handful of incense for HKG$18, lit them with difficulty for 3 of the incense were rather huge, prayed for a bit then stuck them to the few pots. Or at least tried to. Of course I got burnt by the falling ashes; one week later I still bear the marks.
After offering the incense I went inside the first area and made a small donation. There and in a couple more temples there were large and beautiful figurines that included Gautama Buddha, Avalokitesvara Boddhisattva and a few of her manifestations, the four cardinal deities and Amitabha Buddha. I could recognise some of the Buddha’s disciples though I couldn’t name them then. One of the figurines was definitely Manjusri.
At one of the areas you could do stick fortune telling. Never done it before and it wasn’t easy, trying to get one stick out and keeping the others in. So maybe it’s either luck or your own fear – the stick that stood out the furthest, please fall out so I don’t have to embarrass myself by doing it all over again.
I got Lot 29 and asked the woman what it meant since I couldn’t read Chinese. I didn’t understand her Cantonese so she led me to a younger guy sitting nearby, who showed me a translation book of all the lot numbers. Twenty-nine… twenty-nine… there you are. Something about a sword and bravery and a play and… stuff. I think it said I would be successful in my undertakings but would have to watch out for my family members’ safety and health. Love life would be good. I peeked at Lot 30 and decided that Lot 29 was a heck lot better.
Walked out of the temples, there were the impressive archway and a giant incense burner.
Bought a HKG$23 pass to visit an exhibition which was not open to the general public; unless you pay of course. I had no idea what the exhibition was about, but what the heck.
Hence began the climbing of the many many many steps (all 286 of them) to reach the Giant Buddha. Was a bit exhausting, then again I know I am far from fit. Overheard a girl from China telling her partner she couldn’t climb anymore. Her partner started to meanly berate her in a very rude manner about her fitness and how she should exercise when they get back home. What a man bitch.
At the very top, the Giant Buddha wasn’t very huge… duh. There were a few statues around, female deities offering flowers etc to the Giant Buddha. Walked around the inside hall, saw a plaque in memory of Anita Mui and there were flowers and bears and stuff left behind by her fans.
The general exhibition was basically large paintings about Gautama Buddha’s life. I went upstairs to the paid exhibition; on the second floor there were a lot of paintings of Buddha and generally about Buddhism, calligraphy and stuff. Another floor up was 2 of the Buddha’s relics. According to the information board, when the Buddha passed way there were 84,000 relics in the form of tiny crystals and today Po Lin has 2 of them. I couldn’t actually see the relics; it was roped off so you couldn’t get too near. Luckily the understanding committee of the temple decided to take a large close up photo of the relic and place it at the altar. I have heard of people breaking down and cry upon seeing the Buddha’s relics. I think they are either dramatic or overly emotional. Of course it is an important thing in Buddhism history but it was never an important thing in Dharma. A relic just reminds you of the Buddha, that he lived and taught, just like all the figurines carved in memory of the Buddha in their various representations. All this… holding on to an image thing is pure nonsense. In the same way we bow to the Buddha because we respect Him and His Teachings, because we aim to be like Him and free ourselves from Samsara. And all your Boddhisatvas are elevated beings, they do not really have a form, a self but only mind. When we recite a Boddhisatvas name the effect was to connect our minds with the particular Boddhisatva’s energy so s/he could assist etc.
I am not making any of this up. There IS a connection between different realms in form of energy and connectivity. For example I have never seen a spirit or if you like, a ghost before in my life. That could be due to that my ‘vibes’ are not too much in tune with their vibes. It’s really all physics, one way or the other. The best person to explain this would be OYW, one of the most logical and practical Buddhist speakers I know.
Of course being human we are naturally weak and more often than not need a god-like memory to hold on to, be it your assorted gods and deities, power, status or money. And I’m not saying that it is a bad thing; in a way it builds and inspires faith. So long you don’t harm other people and make their lives absolute misery or distorts the real purpose of learning the Dharma, you can jolly well do anything you want. We all need something to hold on to at times.
I can feel spirituality anywhere — in a Christian church with the choir praising the Lord or in my room alone by myself contemplating life. The reason I take on Buddhism philosophy was because it proves to be more scientific, logical, responsible and sensible.
The Buddha was a very logical man.
I don’t mean to diss the relics; it’s just a culmination of how I feel about such things and never got to writing them. In his book ‘Funny Monk’s Tales’ Venerable Sujiva related an incident with Venerable Dr. K Sri Dhammananda:
“So one day I asked the Venerable Dr K Sri Dhammananda what he thought of relic claims. He gave me a distant look and with bulging eyes said, “These are things concerning the devotional aspects of Buddhism. We do not need all these to study and practise the Dhamma.”
That jolted me up a bit. So it’s not so important after all. It’s true, as the Buddha himself said: “He who sees my teachings sees me.” What is important is that we follow the Buddha’s exhortation and practise the Dhamma. So the Venerable Dhammananda’s answer was a good one but I wonder how I can get the message across to those people who still get frenzied over relics. Ah, faith, good faith, you should always come with wisdom, otherwise it can be dangerous.”
But it was a great honour for me to be able to see the Buddha’s relics, even though it was quite a distance away from the roped-off area.
Walked out of the exhibition and it was quite windy. After all we were at a peak. The view was breathtakingly beautiful, oh the surrounding mountains just took my breath away! Not that the steps didn’t do the job but this was in awe rather than exhaustion. I could recognise a couple of the mountain elements, thought to myself, hey that’s a fire mountain. Wished I had paid more attention in my Feng Shui classes.
Then began my descend to catch a bus back to Mui Wo.
As the bus had yet to arrive and there was already a queue I decided to look around at one of the stalls selling post cards, souvenirs and such at high prices to unsuspecting tourists. I approached an old woman and in my broken Cantonese, asked if she had anything for my burn marks. She was rather nice and toot-toot, and handed me a small jar of something which I was quite sure would do the job. The Chinese always has these ointments and stuff for cases like mine. As I was applying the balm, a Caucasian female was asking the price for the displayed postcards. The old woman asked me to relay the price information to the female which I willingly obliged.
Since the old woman was so nice to me I decided to stick around her stall a bit longer, pretending to be interested in the dusty souvenirs of qilin and Chinese fans and played interpreter for her and the Caucasian female. When the female left I too decided to take my leave and queue up for the bus. I asked the old woman if I could take a photo of her and she laughingly but adamantly refused, claiming, “hou yok shun ar” (not presentable). Finally I gave up, said goodbye and made a beeline for the queue.
The journey back to Mui Wo was just as scary. When we reached Mui Wo (in one piece) I bought a ticket back to Pier 6 on Hong Kong Island. Basically the ferry journey was uneventful but the sight was pretty nice.
Day 1 : To Hong Kong
Day 2.1 : In Search of Tin Hau
Day 2.2 : The Octopus Strikes Back
Day 2.3 : Flower Crazy
Day 2.4 : Central; A Different World
Day 2.5 : Night Time, Light Time
Day 3.1 : The Buddha Beckons
Day 3.2 : To The Peak and Back
Day 3.3 : This Girl Needs a Beer
Day 4 : Leaving Hong Kong
Some thoughts on Hong Kong