A speech I wrote for my Dharma brothers and sisters back in Oklahoma after my 2014 pilgrimage to Taiwan.
Taiwan Through My Eyes
As you know we recently went on pilgrimage to Taiwan. A pilgrimage by definition is a religious journey or expedition, and annually, lay disciples and Buddha Mind members like yourself have the unique opportunity to save money, take off work using their accumulated vacation hours through hard work, and travel with our Zen Masters to our holy place of Chung Tai Chan Monastery. On this journey we visited 11 other Chung Tai Monastery branches in Taiwan, made offerings to each Zen center master, hiked in the most majestic mountains, walked along nature trails that seemed they could go on forever.
I enjoyed very much the beauty that was before me and the wild life, but even more than those wondrous things, the events that caused my faith Buddhism and my practice to be etched into my heart, were the intimate conversations with the Shifus who traveled with me, and experiencing life with my Dharma brother’s first-hand.
In America, particularly those in this very Chan Hall that I can speak of, we can have faith, believe what we have learned this far, but it is not a part of who we are. Buddhism is something we have chosen for ourselves, but it is not yet, at least for me it was not, an additional limb to our body. Because of the people I have met, worked alongside, meditated with – because of the Grand Master’s eyes that I was able to look upon, because of the deep sense of gratitude and security I felt from sentient beings that have an even deeper connection with Buddhism than I do, I was able to see. Truly see myself; my practice, my goals, and when our time in Taiwan dwindled to the end, I knew what I needed to bring home so that my future lay secure in the truths that Shakyamuni Buddha taught us.
A pilgrimage in itself is not as simple as a vacation. A pilgrimage is a state of mind swooned with traveling and having an eagerness to feel something greater than yourself become engrained into your consciousness. We all have the inherent Buddha Nature. Each one of us; we just have to find it. Taiwan for me- Chung Tai, all the Zen Centers and Meditation Centers, my teachers – this was stage 2 in my personal Buddhist development. I cultivated in my mind something strong and truthful. As long as I continue my practice I know those seeds from my first pilgrimage to Taiwan will spout, grow, and one ordinary day, carry me into enlightenment.
If this pilgrimage is something you heard about or considered but thought the money or time could be best spent elsewhere. I will say this. If you are committed to Buddha Mind Monastery, a faithful practitioner and volunteer, do not let it stop there. Buddha Mind Monastery is a second home to me, but it is a vessel. Continue your practice, take the 3 Refugees, 5 Precepts even, and rather than considering the next pilgrimage, commit to it. Find a larger part of yourself among Dharma brothers in Taiwan who have already committed to aiding in your cultivation. You have just not met them yet. Amituofo, friends. Dharma family.
Janelle Talimdjioski (Chuan Xing)