When I attended the WTO conference in Hongkong as a journalist circa 2005, I was billeted with the ‘leftist trouble-makers’ in a hotel far from the city center’. Not that I was a leftist, just a hard-hitting writer. I naughtily went AWOL from covering the street rallies, too old for such violent affairs. Instead, I fulfilled a life-long dream to discover an ancient Buddhist temple. It was serendipity – a chance discovery. It was ironic that I became more Christian in my encounter with Buddhism.
eastwind journals, March 8, 2022 (archive tr29)
By Bernie V. Lopez, email@example.com
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I looked at a tourist map with Chinese characters and saw an icon of a Buddhist temple and the number of the bus to get there. I did not know where I was going and where to go down. I said, “Bahala na” (leave it to chance). Little did I know, serendipity would give me a magical experience.
Serendipity is sudden magical friends and places, like the pilgrim girl and the Buddhist temple in this story. Serendipity is bumping into water when you are thirsty, or into kind people when you need help. It is ironic that, when you want something so badly, it is not there, but when you do not look for it and don’t care, it falls on your lap out of nowhere.
I asked the bus driver, pointing at the icon on the map, but he did not speak English. He shooed me away. I was scared I would get lost. The bus went uphill through a zigzag. My excitement was drowned by my fear. The bus stopped at a shed in the middle of nowhere. A young girl, who spoke English, smiled at me and beckoned. She was with her parents on a pilgrimage to the very temple I was looking for. That was the first serendipity, the gift of discovery.
We walked about 30 minutes on a steep road. The air was colder than in Baguio City back home. Below, I saw the panorama of the mist that lay like a carpet on the valley below. Half a kilometer from the awesome mountain monastery, I heard the chant of Buddhist monks. My hair stood on end. The chant became louder, echoing like thunder on my ears. That was the second serendipity, the gift of inner peace.
The girl told me I could enter the temple’s cloistered areas as long as I did not take pictures. At the very top was a mind-boggling dome with a circular altar of about ten meters in diameter with a thousand golden statuettes of Buddha all around. There, I prayed to Jesus and thanked him for bringing me to this sacred Buddhist place. That was the third serendipity, the gift of prayer and commune with the Lord.
On the second day, I continued my search for temples. I found three more. One was a small rural temple with an enchanting garden full of people. I prayed with them. Later, a lady noticed I was neither Chinese nor Buddhist, and shooed me away. No harm done. It was an unforgettable experience for a Christian to pray with Buddhist peasants.
My euphoria turned to shock when I returned to the hotel. The day before, the Koreans were on the front line during the street protests. Their giant drums heard four blocks away psyched the police into fear. They were not ready for the unexpected violence. Next day, it was the turn of the Pinoys on the front lines, but unfortunately, the police were ready with tear gas and pepper spray. Half a dozen Pinoys were momentarily blind. There was chaos at the lobby. The incident went viral on Social Media. I was safe from the violent rally by accident. That was the fourth serendipity, the gift of safety from danger.
There are three important ‘S’s in life – simplicity, sensitivity, and serendipity. Simplicity means going back to basics. Sensitivity means listening, opening wide the windows of your soul. Serendipity is the psychic gift of discovering beautiful people and magical places which explode on your face by sheer chance.
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Author’s Credentials. Blogger – ex-Columnist (Inquirer) – Healing Ministry – ex-Professor (Ateneo University) – Documentary Producer-Director (freelance, ex-ABS-CBN, ex-TVS Tokyo) – ex-Broadcaster (Radio Veritas) – Facebook “Bernie V. Lopez Eastwind” / Pages “Eastwind Journeys and Journals” and “Mary Queen of Peace”.