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Visited a Vietnamese Buddhist Temple

Posted: Sun Sep 23, 2012 11:54 pm
by Hickersonia
Hello Dharma Wheel friends,

Please forgive me if I post this in the wrong forum -- I'm a regular guest at Dhamma Wheel, but I think I could learn something here too on this and I'm not quite sure in which subforum this post should be posted.

I made a visit to a Vietnamese Buddhist Temple today that is about 20 minutes from my home that done "prayers" / chanting on Sundays, a particularly convenient day for me since I don't have to work. While I didn't understand a bit of their chanting (all Vietnamese, no Pali), I was impressed by the devotion expressed by those who were there and am considering returning, if for no other reason than to attend the yoga course offered immediately preceding.

Being I've studied mostly the Theravada school of Buddhism, I was a little surprised to see the resident monastic (a nun) eating after noon when the rest of the "congregation" (for lack of a better word) had a lunch after service. To get to the point, I'm interested in learning some of the differences between the monastic practices of the Theravada and the Vietnamese, and, if possible, find some basic resources on learning a little of the language so that I can understand a bit of what is being chanted and hopefully chant along.

Thank you very much in advance for any replies. Be well, friends.

Re: Visited a Vietnamese Buddhist Temple

Posted: Mon Sep 24, 2012 2:28 am
by DNS
Based on some of my limited experiences with Vietnamese temples, there appears to be somewhat of a mix of Mahayana and Theravada. I know Thich Nhat Hanh's temples are officially Mahayana, but they include Theravada mindfulness meditations and some other aspects of Theravada.

Perhaps the best of both worlds. :smile:

Re: Visited a Vietnamese Buddhist Temple

Posted: Mon Sep 24, 2012 3:51 am
by Indrajala
They might be reciting Chinese scriptures with Vietnamese pronunciation.

If the monastics are from a Chinese lineage (the nuns probably are given that Theravada in SE Asia has no bhikkuni lineage anymore), then they'll probably eat past noon and call it a medicine meal.

TNH's lineage is traced back to Chinese Chan.

Re: Visited a Vietnamese Buddhist Temple

Posted: Mon Sep 24, 2012 4:17 am
by Hickersonia
Huseng wrote:They might be reciting Chinese scriptures with Vietnamese pronunciation.

If the monastics are from a Chinese lineage (the nuns probably are given that Theravada in SE Asia has no bhikkuni lineage anymore), then they'll probably eat past noon and call it a medicine meal.

TNH's lineage is traced back to Chinese Chan.
Very interesting indeed -- didn't even think about that nuns would be pretty much non existent in Theravada.

I presume "TNH" is Thich Nhat Hanh? I've read his "Living Buddha, Living Christ" and have considered picking up some of his other books, but have not yet.

Thank you.

Re: Visited a Vietnamese Buddhist Temple

Posted: Mon Sep 24, 2012 6:13 am
by lobster
good.luck with the yoga :thumbsup:
I would find out as soon as possible how to make offerings of flowers, food or whatever is the going provision.

Keep us informed of your adventures. :twothumbsup:
I wonder if popcorn is an acceptable offering? :popcorn:

Re: Visited a Vietnamese Buddhist Temple

Posted: Mon Sep 24, 2012 7:05 am
by catmoon
lobster wrote: I wonder if popcorn is an acceptable offering? :popcorn:
Orville Redenbacher only. With Parmesan.

Re: Visited a Vietnamese Buddhist Temple

Posted: Mon Sep 24, 2012 8:05 am
by Rakz
catmoon wrote:
lobster wrote: I wonder if popcorn is an acceptable offering? :popcorn:
Orville Redenbacher only. With Parmesan.
Sour cream and onion for me.

Re: Visited a Vietnamese Buddhist Temple

Posted: Mon Sep 24, 2012 9:09 am
by Kaji
Hickersonia wrote:Being I've studied mostly the Theravada school of Buddhism, I was a little surprised to see the resident monastic (a nun) eating after noon when the rest of the "congregation" (for lack of a better word) had a lunch after service.
Not sure about the Vietnamese tradition, but in a lot of Chinese traditions of Buddhism that I have observed monks and nuns may have their meal as long as it is before 1pm. The relevant precept in Chinese 過午不食 can be translated as "no eating past wu". Before following the rest of the world in using hours and minutes, the Chinese culture used a time measurement system where they divided a day into 12 units. The wu or "noon" unit is from 11am to 1pm. I understand this has to do with why they may still eat between 12pm to 1pm. Nan Huai-Chin mentioned about this in one of his lectures/books.

I have heard Chinese monks teaching that drinking fluids after lunch time is alright as long as there are no solid bits, e.g. pulps in fruit juice. Water, tea, pulpless fruit juice are widely acceptable. Some perceive milk as essentially food that can be taken after lunch only as medicine, e.g. stomachache. Other such medicinal food include cheese and chocolate. Some temples require approval by a Vinaya teacher or a senior monk/nun if one has to take such food past lunch time for medicinal purposes.

I remember reading somewhere a general observation that Theravada monks and nuns are strict about not eating past noon while Chinese Mahayana monks and nuns are strict about not eating meat, garlic, onion, etc. Elsewhere I have read about the historical original of this aspect of Chinese Buddhism.

Re: Visited a Vietnamese Buddhist Temple

Posted: Mon Sep 24, 2012 1:27 pm
by Hickersonia
lobster wrote:good.luck with the yoga :thumbsup:
I would find out as soon as possible how to make offerings of flowers, food or whatever is the going provision.
I hadn't considered this... I suppose I could ask one of the English-speaking members -- they were very kind to me and did not treat me like a "wierdo" or anything, which was nice considering I've felt like a real stranger in places where there weren't other languages being spoken.
Kaji wrote:
Hickersonia wrote:Being I've studied mostly the Theravada school of Buddhism, I was a little surprised to see the resident monastic (a nun) eating after noon when the rest of the "congregation" (for lack of a better word) had a lunch after service.
Not sure about the Vietnamese tradition, but in a lot of Chinese traditions of Buddhism that I have observed monks and nuns may have their meal as long as it is before 1pm. The relevant precept in Chinese 過午不食 can be translated as "no eating past wu". Before following the rest of the world in using hours and minutes, the Chinese culture used a time measurement system where they divided a day into 12 units. The wu or "noon" unit is from 11am to 1pm. I understand this has to do with why they may still eat between 12pm to 1pm. Nan Huai-Chin mentioned about this in one of his lectures/books.
Amazing, I would have never stumbled upon this in a dozen lifetimes. What arrogance of mine to assume the standard by which we measure time has not changed or differed dependant on culture in various places of the world. *facepalm*

Thinking on this, it is entirely possible that she did not eat after 1 PM. I didn't observe her so closely so as to correlate the time of her last bite or anything, more I was trying to measure her tone of voice and watch her interactions with the others there -- noticing that she was eating was more of a side-effect. I don't think she spoke English, either that or she chose to not speak with me directly because I did not directly approach her.

The whole experience was mostly in an "observer" mode for me, I'll admit. Not trying to make judgements on it all, so much as just learn as much as I can.

Are there any good resources available for learning some Vietnamese? Google translates the language rather goofily...