A Monks life: what living behind temple walls is really like – 7NEWS.com.au

Posted: March 9, 2021 at 11:48 pm


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Buddhist Monks are just happy all the time, right?

I thought they were super-humans who never got annoyed, never had a negative thought and were non-materialistic.

While filming the new LIFE: Done Differently series, I spent time at the Nan Tien Temple in Wollongong with the Buddhist Monks.

The Nan Tien Temple was founded in 1965 by Venerable Master Hsing Yun.

It is the biggest Buddhist temple in the Southern Hemisphere.

And the name is fitting. Nan Tien in Chinese, means Paradise of the South.

The Temple: At First Glance

Id never been to a Buddhist temple before, so I was really excited to immerse myself in the experience.

When I arrived at the temple, I was eagerly waiting outside the gated community, until security buzzed me in.

The first thing I noticed when I got inside, was how beautiful the gardens were. Id never seen trees so perfectly trimmed before!

The temple grounds were very quiet. Walking around was so calm and relaxing. Very different to the city lifestyle Ive become accustomed too.

Seeing all the monks walking around, I was starting to get really excited to learn all about their lifestyle.

Shortly after exploring the grounds, I met Venerable Dr Juewei, who was going to be guiding me through my temple experience.

Venerable Dr Juewei is a very impressive woman. She has several degrees under her belt and is the head of the Nan Tien Institute, where they teach Buddhism., and numerous other courses.

She lives by the strict routine of a Buddhist Monk lifestyle, as well as running an entire university, so its fair to say, I was lucky she could fit me into her schedule.

Buddhist Monk Lifestyle

I got to sit down and have a long chat with Venerable Dr Jeuwei.

She was so friendly, calm and everything you thought a monk would be.

I also learnt a lot from her. Mainly, that my initial beliefs about monks were wrong.

Monks arent happy all the time.

Monks do have negative thoughts.

Monks do get annoyed.

Interestingly enough, I even saw some of the Monks using their own iPhones.

They are human just like the rest of us. Its how they approach life and deal with negativity, that makes them unique.

They cant hide from conflict between other monks. They all live together in the temple and have very strict daily routines that make it hard to avoid each other.

When someone does wrong by them, they dont look at the other person, they look inwards within themselves, how they can react in the best way they can.

How they handle lifes obstacles isnt rocket science either.

Its simply just practising mindfulness.

Focusing on their breathing.

They practise mindfulness in their day-to-day life, and whenever faced with a difficult situation, they just take it back to the breath.

It was interesting learning from Venerable Dr Juewei about their goal of striving to nirvana.

Buddhists strive for the journey to perfection.

No one is perfect, but its striving towards perfection that attracts Buddhists focus.

Day in the life of a monk

Its a busy life being a monk. They have a strict structure to their day from the moment they wake-up, right up until bedtime.

Thanks to the team at Nan Tien Temple, I got to live a day in the life of a Buddhist Monk.

I stayed overnight at the temple, and hit the pillow early, as I had my alarm set for 4.50am the next morning, to be up in time for the morning ritual.

I woke up, had a quick shower and then struggled, but eventually got into my robe.

I was wearing a grey robe, all the other monks were wearing fancy orange and black robes, so I really stood out as the newbie.

I then made my way down to the temple for the morning ritual.

At 5.20am, a Monk started to bang the big drum. This is to wake up all the other Monks in the temple. The drum is like a communal alarm clock.

One by one, the monks all walked into the temple (myself included, in my grey robe).

The ritual was an incredible experience, so much was going on.

Singing. Bells ringing. Everyone dropping to the floor and back up again.

I was clearly out of my depth and couldnt keep up with the pace of the ritual.

It was really therapeutic listening to all the monks chanting around me.

They conclude the ritual with a meditation session. I was hopeless at meditation.

I couldnt keep my eyes closed. I couldnt cross my legs. I couldnt hold in my giggles. It was a terrible attempt. Im getting better at it though, slowly, day by day.

We then went for breakfast. The monks eat all their meals in silence, or as they call it, mindful eating. They think about all the hard work that went into getting the food on the table and appreciating the taste.

It was definitely a new experience for me, as Im used to being on my phone or watching television over breakfast, not giving food a second thought.

I then joined the monks in their daily mindful walking exercise. This is where they do laps of the courtyard just focusing on their steps. It really cleared my head.

Tai Chi was next. I did Kung Fu when I was younger, so I felt like this should be easy for me to pick up. I gave myself a 4/10 for effort. The Monks made it look so easy, I was struggling to keep up with their effortless flow of movement.

Life Lessons

I feel like we can all take parts of the Buddhist Monk lifestyle and apply it to our own lives.

How often do we see somebody over-react or do something they later regret, because they acted on their emotions without thinking?

Making a conscious effort to focus on your breathing can help prevent that.

It does take practise and must be a priority in your life for it to be effective.

Ill be honest, I really struggled with practising mindfulness in all the tasks. Its easier said than done. Im working on it.

Also recognising that no one is perfect, but we can all aim to strive towards perfection. Similar to the saying, aim for the stars, land on the moon. We can always aim higher and set higher goals in life if we want more success.

Although living in a temple is definitely not appealing to me, I think I can definitely take away some of the Buddhist ways of doing life and apply them to my own.

Things Ill be taking away from the Buddhist lifestyle and focusing on this year -

1) Meditate regularly to allow a healthy mind, which leads to a healthy life.

2) Always strive for perfection in everything I do.

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A Monks life: what living behind temple walls is really like - 7NEWS.com.au

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March 9th, 2021 at 11:48 pm

Posted in Buddhism