I never thought I would be so enamoured by how a building looks. I am a huge fan of new experiences but didn’t really ever see myself as someone who would enjoy the beauty of architecture. Maybe I’m just getting older or perhaps just getting used to being disappointed by the reality of idealized structures. Either way, the Nua Hua Temple, found in Bronkorspruit, just a few kilometers away from the snoozing city of Pretoria, left me awestruck, not only in terms of its beautiful shapes and colours, but the energy that surrounded the area; filling me up as if God himself lived there.
Inside the temple, the three huge and meditative buddhas looked down at me whilst an array of candles and incense adorned them in front and the smell, of what I think was sandalwood, incense filled the air. Although hard to admit, I recognized the familiar feeling of the temple. It was the way I used to feel when attending Church as a young girl. This warm and glowing sensation had slowly been stomped out by the illogical and dogmatic rules, which has given me an uneasy feeling towards religion in general.
Now I’m not sure how, but being in that temple gave me that nostalgic feeling without the extra uncomfortable nudge I always felt in my stomach whilst attending church. This could either be the fact that I did or do not know enough about Buddhism or due to the very well known ‘Buddhism is a philosophy, not a religion’ which can instantly give you a relief from the dogma found in most churches. Either way, I felt a peace that usually only occurs after a good hour of meditation and that my friends, is a feat I don’t usually succeed at.
Whilst in this temple I noticed a row of people, patiently waiting one by one to speak to a monk. This sparked my interest although my partner was not too crazy about it and I understood why.
In spirituality, there’s a very fine line between personal seeking and allowing others to tell you the way. If you’re not careful you stop seeking and you start following. My partner, who very stubbornly refuses to be told anything about himself, did not hold any desire to go speak with a stranger about his ‘own’ path, assuming it was some kind of fortune telling-whilst I was a tiny bit more intrigued. Eventually, I managed to convince my very reluctant man to sit down with me whilst we waited about an hour to eventually be handed a beautiful piece of wisdom.
After having a very interesting conversation with a girl in the queue who, against my better judgment, taught me how to feel energy by rubbing my hands together, I reached the front of the line with a fortune in hand that had come around to all of us in bowls, fingers in and searching for some lost sign. Mine read the following:
“We must recognize that a good deed that is harmless is far better than one that harms a few. The wise know that a bad deed that helps somebody is far worse than one that helps nobody”
My overly-philosophical mind began trying to logically dismember and put together this beautiful piece, opposite to the Buddhist tradition of simple and aware contemplation. The most obvious interpretation I could make out of it was that the consequences of our actions whether good or bad are important. The monk whom I spoke to though held a wildly different explanation which till this day I can’t decide if he simply did not understand the quote himself or whether my contemplation skills were so lacking that I missed it entirely.
He saw that this quote meant that I am a very kind person who does not receive this kindness back, but that I must not give up being this way. In the future, I will be rewarded for my kindness and all those who did me wrong will realize this and come beg for forgiveness. My ego loved that one and even if this monk was just spinning some strange story on me, I went away that day with a new lesson that I think many need to learn which is; don’t let this world make you bitter.
“Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place.”-Kurt Vonnegut
A lot of us are struggling right now, whether it is in terms of our personal environment or political one, which, let’s be honest, isn’t the greatest. Yet, we can take in the realities of a harsh world and not let it make us resentful. The only ones this bitterness is hurting is ourselves.
Bitterness does not make you wiser as though because you are unhappy, you are intelligent enough to understand the darkness of the world. All it does is rob you of your joy. We need this joy to help build a better world because it helps us recognize the sparks of hope that still reside in all corners of the earth. Without this recognition, we can not see through the darkness around us and so any sort of dream for a better future is lost.
Letting go of bitterness is a huge middle finger to all those that tried to bring us down so let’s all widen our smiles, raise those digits and reclaim our power.