Memories of Hong Kong, Asalha Puja, and Arugula Madness

We climbed these intimidating steps to reach the Tian Tan Buddha, at Po Lin Monastery in Hong Kong. I took this photo before we started climbing.

Here’s a large incense vessel I admired at Lan Tau Island in Hong Kong. When I got home, I eventually acquired one myself. We often burn incense in our food gardens.

We’re getting closer to one of my favorite Buddhist holidays. July’s Asalha Puja, celebrated mainly in Thailand and also called ‘Dharma Day’, marks the first time the Buddha shared his teachings, specifically, the doctrine of the Four Noble Truths. This set the wheel of the Dharma in motion and the bringing of many to enlightenment.

While we celebrate Asalha Puja at our home, as Tibetan and not Theravada Buddhists, the August 6 Tibetan version of the holiday, called Chokhor Duchen, is the day we officially mark the day. Chokhor Duchen celebrations in Tibet are beautiful, with practitioners busy with their Koras, yak butter lamps glowing at stupas and shrines, and prayer flags dancing in Himalayan winds. Tibetan culture is so gorgeous.

Chokhor Duchen fasting meditation is the more common practice for Western Buddhists like myself. We’ll place fresh garden flowers and some fruits at shrines as offerings. I hope to travel to Old Saybrook to visit the giant stupa at David Brown’s Hay House farm, the only one of its kind in the area. One day, I hope to make the pilgrimage to Bodh Gaya, the sacred place in India where the Buddha attained supreme enlightenment.

Visitors to our home have remarked on the large Theravada Buddha statue at the heart of our home shrine, even though we’re Tibetan, not Theravada, Buddhists. That’s just because the Thai image of the Buddha strikes me as being a beautiful, inspiring representation of Shakyamuni. It doesn’t really matter at all how we envisage the great Knower of Worlds.

The second wave of arugula is sprouting. I’m crazy about arugula this season. It’s appeared in kale and lettuce salads, as salads in its own right, on black bean burgers, with pasta and brown rice pasta, in tsampa soup, and in green smoothies. Or I’ll just pluck it right in the garden and munch away. It has a great peppery bite.

As with bitter greens, it also acts as a powerful liver cleanser. For that reason, I’ve also been eating lots of our raw Italian parsley.

Going through old photos last weekend, I found the slides from my trip to Hong Kong. I live on the light side, and don’t hold on too many things, including photos. But I’m really glad I kept these. So many memories came flooding in: our pilgrimage to beautiful Lan Tau Island and holy Po Lin Monastery to see the awe-inspiring Tian Tan Buddha, walks through Hong Kong’s serene countryside, the insanity of the city, and bowls of hot, salty fish ball soup.

We’re just days away from harvesting our first yellow squash. Amazing. Summer squash is my husband’s favorite. Last night, he was imagining they ways he’ll prepare it. He’s thinking a casserole of squash, onions, and potatoes. A vegan dish! Sounds completely yummy to me.

Live in peace.

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