Yesterday morning, before I headed to Binh Chau for a hot springs adventure, I took a taxi down the coastline a few kilometers to Thic Ca Phat Dai, known for its giant Buddha statue on the mountainside. I thought this would be a cheesy roadside attraction but ended up being quite moved by the experience.
After arriving, I walked up a series of stairs to the giant Buddha, past a couple monks in yellow robes who sat around chatting in what turned out to be an actual temple. I hadn’t expected a temple nor monks…I thought this was just a tourist trap. I had a brief moment of disappointment with myself, showing up at a temple dressed ‘immodestly’ (I was wearing a tank top, and know that this is not proper temple attire)…but acknowledged that this was an honest slip, as I truly had not imagine the possibility that monks would be congregating here.
I made my way to the giant statue above, rain began to fall. I got to the top, and a guide, a frail older man who seemed nearly blind showed me where the incense was kept, as well as a burning candle in a covered coffee can. I made an incense offering, recited a brief chant, then prostrated three times before the statue. The old man watched in awe that I, a silly western girl immodestly dressed, had some idea how to pay my respects to the great awakened one.
As I touched the earth three times, I felt my heart melt open. I felt the spirit of my teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, with me very strongly as I was embraced by the ground below, here in his native home. With each prostration on the wet ground, I felt an incredible joy expanding within me.
I headed down to the temple and paid respects to a smaller Buddha statue, surrounded by wild neon lights, as well as to Quan Am. As I bowed before each three times, a man by the entrance to each temple room invited a bell, and I felt just as if I was touching the earth in the big hall at Deer Park. I felt at home.