A young monk was staring at me and I didn’t know why. He was carrying an incense, lighting them, and putting them in the altar. I wondered if I looked like someone he knew, I wondered if there was dirt on my face, I wondered if I’m the next jedi and he’s going to be my master. Then another monk entered the room and gestured for me to leave. Guess I’m not going to be a jedi. As soon as I stepped out, I realized
why I’m not going to be a jedi my mistake; I was wearing shoes in a room where footwear is not allowed. That’s what happens when you visit a Buddhist temple and you’re not aware of the rules.
During our Mekong River tour in Ho Chi Minh, we had a side-trip at that Vĩnh Tràng Temple. The temple sits on 5 acres of land in the town of Mỹ Phong. It was built in the 19th century, made possible under the efforts of the district chief, Bùi Công Đạt. The place is adorned with fruit-bearing trees, potted plants, and various flowers. [Read: Braving the Streets of Ho Chi Minh]
This is the first time that I’ve entered a Buddhist temple, or seen a Budai — popularly known as the “Laughing Buddha” — as big as King Kong. I was naturally amazed. I mean just look at that big guy up there in all its white glory.
That’s the sitting Buddha, now this one is the Reclining Buddha.
The temple has all kinds of Buddha statues you can ever imagine; big and small Buddha, gold Buddha, bronze Buddha, Buddha carved in stone, Buddha carved in wood, etc. There are so many fascinating things to see, it felt like I was in a museum.
Yes, the temple is beautiful and if you want to enjoy your visit, you shouldn’t do anything to offend the monks. I’ll share with you some of the things that are forbidden at Vinh trang, which is also applicable when visiting other Buddhist temples. By the way, don’t be misled by the pictures, some of them do not necessarily represent the rules. I just want to preach while showing you how beautiful the temple is.
Thou shall not come in an attire that shows too much skin
You are neither in a beach nor a bar so save your Princess Leia slave bikini outfit for another day. If you gotta be Princess Leia think of her in the Force Awakens, wear something that goes below the knees and a shirt with sleeves. At least in this case, I did right.
Thou shall not touch, move, or rearrange the statues and other objects in the temple
Especially those placed in the altar. No matter how tempting those shiny shimmery splendid objects are, refrain yourself from touching them (or taking one home). [Read: A Crawl inside the Cu Chi Tunnel]
Thou shall keep your voice down
A temple, after all, is a place of worship, so be at your best behavior and do not disturb the peace.
Thou shall not pick flowers and plants
The touch of nature makes the temple all the more beautiful so do not be a prick who picks plants and flowers.
Thou shall not enter with your footwear the room for worship
And the rule that I learned based from experience, take off your flip flops or shoes when entering the room for worship. Believe me, you wouldn’t want to be shunned away by the monks. Honestly, I still blush from embarrassment whenever I remember this.
I hope these simple tips can be useful to you when you finally get to visit Vinh Trang. Meanwhile, I am going to find some other ways to become a jedi. :p