Thursday, October 21, 2010

Ling Jiou Mountain takes this Taipei visitor up the winding road to spirituality and tranquility

By Nancy T. Lu
Ling Jiou Mountain on a heavily mist-covered day seems a shy lady veiled in mystery. Occasionally, the fog fades away to reveal but only very briefly the beautiful curve of the wave-washed coastline way down below.

Undeniable is the power of this quiet retreat so filled with spirituality to draw in a visitor seeking relief from all worldly cares and pains. The drive through the hairpin curves of the mountain road before arriving at the entrance to the sacred setting lifts the spirit. The fresh air is invigorating and the embrace of Mother Nature is so comforting.

At the heart of this peaceful place for meditation on Ling Jiou Mountain is a Myanmar-born holy man whose road to a better understanding of life and death is through an ascetic life of fasting and meditation.

He looked at death up close, undergoing fasting, meditation and wrestling with the demons all alone in an abandoned pagoda of a neglected cemetery for a long period. As an ascetic seeking enlightenment, he chose also a cave in Fulong for his abode. He emerged as the inspired founder of the Museum of World Religions and promoter of interfaith dialogues in a war-torn world.

Not every outsider gets to personally meet the Venerable Dharma Hsin Tao. Each one who approaches the Wusheng Monastery, however, begins at least to try to learn from him with the help of his followers the path to tranquility.

Empty the mind, he says during a meditation. But the spiritual teaching is not something to be mastered overnight. The long journey to learn and find the truth begins at the very quiet Ling Jiou Mountain. Practice moves a sincere person closer to his goal.

Speechless mountains hold secrets. The Ling Jiou Mountain – a peak with the silhouette of a protective eagle watching over it – is not an exception. Long before the arrival of the Venerable Dharma Hsin Tao, local fishermen reported sightings of a mysterious flame burning at the summit.

After lighting a scented votive candle for a mother suffering in pain faraway back home, this visitor looks forward to another opportunity to experience Ling Jiou Mountain, including being soothed by the drone of the religious community at prayer before the Buddha, living in austere but fairly comfortable quarters, going completely vegetarian at mealtime, strolling alone along the Path of the 500 Arhats, participating in a “tai chi” exercise and joining a meditation with the Venerable Dharma Hsin Tao providing inspiring leadership even if only his taped voice is used.

The monastery’s shuttle bus brings a first-timer back to the Fulong train station to board the train to Taipei at the appointed time. After an hour, the Ling Jiou Mountain is just a beautiful memory to be cherished until the next visit to the haven created by a modern-day visionary.

All the pictures posted here were taken by Nancy T. Lu.

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