“The universe has rules and patterns with the most basic pattern being the interplay of forces between yin and yang.”
I nodded. This was a common enough notion.
“Within yin and yang are the Five Processes or Stages with certain attributes. We tend to think of them as fiery, watery, earthy, woody and metallic. These Stages go in cycles. When we understand the cycles, how each stage will either be in its ascendancy or decline, we understand the changeability of life because they affect everything – the human body, animals, nature, colors, and even music.” She checked to see if I was still following. I was.
“Uniting everything is Chi, the cosmic breath.” My guide stopped here to catch her own breath and we spent a moment watching some monkeys playing in the trees.
“Chi flows through the universe and everything within it – including our bodies. It links the physical, mental and spiritual worlds. Any blockage to the flow of the cosmic breath causes problems.” A fight broke out amongst the monkeys and they disappeared, tussling, into the higher branches of the trees.
We were in the courtyard of the temple when my guide pointed to the statue of Guanyin (left). "This is my godmother. When I was very small, I had terrible asthma. My family thought I was going to die. So my grandmother came and prayed to Guanyin. She asked the goddess to be my godmother and Guanyin agreed. I got better."
The bodhisattva is the Goddess of Mercy and Compassion. She hears and responds to the cries and lamentations of mortals.
As we walked around the temple complex, my guide continued. “Buddhism is important,” she conceded. “But, the two most important philosophical traditions to come out of China are Confucianism and Daoism. Confucianism is very old, twenty-six hundred years or so, and probably the strongest force influencing Asian thought. If you understand Confucian values, you have a better chance of understanding the Asian mind.”
We finished at the temple and got into a car to drive across Kowloon to the Chi Lin Nunnery and Part II of our discussion of balance.
Photos: R. Marion
Original Art: Stasia Dukova
Coming up next: A Question of Balance - Part II