Buddhism in our Backyard

In celebration of Mark’s 21st birthday and our 11mo anniversary, we spent the day in San Francisco. We took my sister and two of her friends, and we enjoyed Tuesday’s free museums along with lots of culture.

I had taken Mark to Chinatown last spring break and it was so fun to see all the souvenirs, the bustling community, and the culture. A missionary from Thailand had taught a class on Buddhism at our school, so during this trip to Chinatown our eyes were open to their worldview, why they were doing the things they were doing, and it became very saddening to see all these people so greatly deceived.

Japantown, San Francisco

a wishing tree

Lauren and her sister

Chinatown, San Francisco

A place to offer money and incense.Naga or Neak, is (usually) a 7-headed serpent/dragon that the Animistic-Buddhists worship. Does that sound familiar in any way? You can see here that people have given coins to this statue (that is actually for sale in a shop).

We ate some amazing cha siu bao (BBQ pork buns) and jien duy (sesame seed balls) at the dim sum restaurant on the right.

The store on the left was completely devoted to Buddhist offerings. You could buy idols for $1,000, altars for $500, paper cars for $30, paper food for $5, stacks of paper for $3, incense for $1, etc. We were both awed at all you could buy to manipulate the spirits. It also reminded us of how the life of an animist is very expensive.

Lanterns, flags, and banners are bright colors so that they would draw the spirits so they would notice your works. I suppose they also draw tourists, too.

The curved roofs are meant to catch and ward off evil spirits, many times there are bells on roofs that tell you if you’ve catch one.

We walked by Tin How temple. Day Ju, one of the first three Chinese to arrive in San Francisco, dedicated this temple to the Queen of the Heavens and the Goddess of the Seven Seas in 1852. It is one of the oldest Buddhist temples in North America.

On the same block is the Norras Temple.

Incense for sale. “The Buddha taught that the sweet fragrance of incense is carried to wherever the wind blows, but the goodness of true virtue spreads in all directions. Thus, the offering of incense and its sweet smell is to remind us to practise the avoiding of evil, doing of good and purification of the mind.

So why are they buying paper cars, clothes, food, furniture all for $5-$50 and burning them?

“Many Chinese traditionally believe that the deceased will have these objects materialise when burnt, for their use in their afterlife in hell. Some say this practice sprung from the ancient Chinese’s attachment to life such that they believe there must be life in equivalent in another world after death. The idea of using burning is to “dematerialise” objects so that they too can “materialise” in the other world.

Food and drink offered to the store idol. The candles represent enlightenment.

Food and incense offerings, I assume for the spirits who pass by the store.

We also visited the Legion of Honor, SFMOMA, and the place where Lauren used to work. We had a great time walking and walking and walking around San Francisco.


One Comment on “Buddhism in our Backyard

  1. It doesn't seem very Christian to criticize others' beliefs…

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