White Lotus

Finding something familiar when you are far from home resonates a particularly strong internal chord. Especially when it is something you know and recognize, but have never actually seen before.

I have been studying and practicing Buddhism for the past four years with a group based in San Jose and Santa Cruz. It’s been a challenge trying to find time for cultivation with all the demands and stresses of graduate school and internships. But those worldly pressures are often the very things that drive me to seek out a bigger perspective and a more centered mindset through Buddhism.  I’m hoping that I can start developing more focus with my practice and better integrate it with my everyday life. And I’m hoping to spend a portion of my current trip meditating and contemplating.

Monks’ robes drying.

The many Buddhist temples throughout Vietnam serve as a helpful reminder. Here in Cần Thơ, the most eye-catching has a shiny golden spire, a gleaming, ornate point of light that breaks through the urban skyline.  After spotting this golden temple from afar over the past few days, my cousin and I decided to pay it a visit.

My Buddhist group has a special practice called the white lotus meditation. Essentially, you visualize that your body transforms into dozens of white lotus flowers that gradually bloom, then dissolve.  I’ve seen many pink lotus flowers and could surely picture what a white one looks like. But I was never positive I had actually seen a white lotus—until now. There was something quite special about finding this flower in this place and feeling this particular connection to it.

Though this Khmer temple represents a different branch of Buddhism than the group I belong to, the essence is the same. One of the monks came to talk to me, probably to practice his English. The temple is also a school and some students, like the one pictured with us, are studying subjects like IT, economics, or English. The monk had taken a trip to study in the United States including a visit to San Francisco. It’s fascinating how travel can help two vastly different life paths intersect.

A student (left) and monk (right) from the temple take a photo with me. Photo by Bảo Quân Nguyễn.

Oh, and I was quite taken with this rug. Sort of a flower in its own right.

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