After yet another exhausting day in Chengdu, we yet again have learned so much about the culture of China. With a usual start to the day, we ate a nice breakfast in the hotel and set out to a Buddhist temple, 文殊院 (Wenshu Temple). When we arrived at the temple we were instructed by our leader, Mark, that most Buddhist temples had many rules regarding how people can behave in the temple. Although Wenshu Temple seemed very commercialized, with gift shops and signs all around; we could feel that the entirety of the temple had a sacred vibe to it. After observing for ourselves, we were led to a pavilion in the garden where Mark educated us on Buddhism, how it was founded, and its Five Precepts. As a Christian myself, I was actually quite intrigued by these sorts of rules or, commandments in a sense. I felt somewhat enlightened about how similar my faiths were to these Buddhist ones. My faith doesn’t restrict me from eating meat and doesn’t restrict me from playing music, however, all religions including my own share the same moral beliefs: killing, stealing, lying, and sexual lust are all wrong. I realized that no matter how different, or how far away people are from one another, morality is a constantly recurring theme throughout all people. This conversation, I believe, really sparked the intellect between us all about the philosophy of morality even though it may not have even been the goal.
After leaving the temple and eating some delicious noodles for lunch, we met a Tibetan scholar named Huatse. Huatse took us to the Tibetan community in Chengdu, where many people were selling Buddhist statues covered of gold. After a small walk through the town seemed quite pointless, we delved into a deep conversation over yak milk tea about identities and how Tibetans were discriminated against because of the political climate between Tibet and the Chinese government. He spoke about while having an identity is good and can allow you to really get to know yourself and others, too much of identity can also cause just as much conflict as it did progress. He also spoke about the discrimination between the Tibet people and the Chinese government and how trying to get a passport was hard for Tibetans because showing one’s ID exploited the fact that they are Tibetan. I couldn’t help but think about how people of color are discriminated against in ways just like ones he spoke about here in China. I couldn’t help but realize that just like how morality is shared all around the world by different people, so is the ugly side of humanity where people are treated the opposite of The Five Precepts of Buddhism.
In China, I doubt any of us were expecting to be involved in such conversations rich in political and religious conflicts in China, and at that thinking about how those same issues are affecting the people at home. Thank you to Huatse for taking your time with us today and thanks for the tea, yogurt and deep conversations.