Throughout our tour of several Buddhist temples, we witnessed both the cultural and philosophical practices of Buddhism, which we had spent prior weeks learning about in class. We started our morning off at the Mahindarama Buddhist Temple, which is rooted in Sri Lankan heritage. There we enjoyed the elaborate decorations, art, statues, and Buddhist stories depicted in a series of figurines.
Our next destination was the famous Kek Lok Si Temple, the largest Buddhist Temple in South East Asia! Located on a hillside, once you reach the various level of temples you can see fantastic views of Penang.
We eventually (after many, many staircases) made our way higher and higher into the various segments of the Kek Lok Si Temple. One of my personal favorite moments was once we reached the Pagoda.
After the Pagoda we took a cable car to the very top of Kek Lok Si to the statue of Kuan Yin. Unfortunately the statue was under construction during our visit. Nevertheless, the view from the top was incredible.
Our last destination for that morning was the Bodhi Heart Sanctuary. After a rather bumpy car ride down a dirt road, we finally arrived at the sanctuary where our Buddhist professor works. Much more secluded than the other temples, the Bodhi Heart Sanctuary definitely focused more on the philosophical practices of Buddhism rather than the heritage. This sanctuary, although simpler than the previous temples we had encountered, still was just as beautiful in its own way. Adjacent to a jungle, the sanctuary offered its space to various groups for retreats, meditations, community events, and even two children’s homes for impoverished youth. One could definitely get a strong sense of community that this place had fostered for many people.
Earlier that morning at the Mahindarama Temple we had come across the Ficus religiosa, or Bohdi Tree. “Bohdi”, which translates to “awakening”, signifies the historical importance of this particular type of tree, which is where the Buddha supposedly reached enlightenment. What makes this tree distinct are the veins that surface on the top of the leaves. While having a conversation with our Buddhist professor, he explained that the veins on the Bohdi Tree leaf represent the channels of love and peace. These channels create the connections of joy and compassion that are available to all of us. Connecting the Bodhi Tree that we saw at the first temple to the end of our morning at the Bodhi Heart Sanctuary, I felt that the significance of the Bodhi leaf had been very much incorporated at this last institute.