Day trip to Yangmingshan

Flower season at Yangmingshan has been a budding success.

Thousands of visitors, both local and foreign, have made the journey to Greater Taipei last weekend to snap photos of the cherry blossoms.

“It’s so beautiful,” said Inbal Britton, an Israeli tourist on Feb. 23. “I’m going to take so many photos.”

But she wasn’t the only one who was struck by the opportunity to take photos that day. Many locals sauntered through the streets to do the same, while stopping at street vendor stalls to eat and meet friends.

In fact, Britton had discovered flower season at Yangmingshan through Taoyuan City native Kelly Hsieh.

“I met her on the bus last weekend on the way to my hotel,” she said. “She recommended it, so we met up here today.”

How to get to Yangmingshan:

Catch the Taipei MRT to Jiantan Station and leave at Exit 1. You can catch the R5 bus directly to Yangmingshan in Greater Taipei for a day trip.

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Being a good student makes you the best teacher

I have a student who, bless his little heart, cannot do the work no matter how hard he tries, and I think that so many people have not catered to his learning style for so long, that I believe, he has stopped trying at school.

And why wouldn’t you?

I know that to be true because I was that kid at school, too.

He loves to draw, he hates taking notes and he hates sitting in a classroom.

He daydreams constantly, and I didn’t notice this at first, but now I do.

Today, I gave him some extra homework, which I thought would cause a scene.

But in reality,  what I did wasn’t a problem. The “experienced” teacher, who was observing me yelled at him, and made him get emotional. He wasn’t paying attention to my lesson on grammar because it was over his head. He’s still struggling to spell simple words.

I pulled my student aside shortly afterwards to give him extra homework after their confrontation, and felt guilty for doing it. I started with a simple realization, knowing he wouldn’t listen to what I was saying if the same tact, or lack thereof, was applied to the situation again.

I knew he would feel ready to fight with anybody who treated him badly, the same way I felt about math teachers when I was his age.

“Come with me,” I said abruptly and looked back as he followed me slowly to the back of the classroom. I bent down on one knee at the back of the classroom and spoke softly, “I want to help you get better at spelling.”

He stopped crying, and agreed with a nod immediately.

He asked questions for the first time since I’ve taught him, and it felt good to see him take an interest in something besides drawing at school.

My manager overheard me talking to him, and I saw him perk up a little too, which was probably good since I don’t deliver speeches to my students very well 98 per cent of the time.

I’m a writer, not a talker.

But what I realized throughout this experience, is that, maybe it takes someone who mirrors your personality and learning style, to teach someone like you.

How can a writer be a Buddhist?

The sound of alarm went off at 5:45 a.m. today and a series of catchy children’s songs from teaching ESL echoed the soundtrack of my life immediately.

I turned off the alarm, and rolled over sluggishly. It can’t be time to go to work already, I told myself. Can I really keep singing these songs day-after-day?

But suddenly, I remembered.

My alarm sounded because it was Saturday. I had been looking forward to meditation all week, so I rolled out of bed immediately and watched as beads of water poured out of the shower nozzle. I waited a minute, and put my hand under the shower head to feel it’s warmth.

There was no need to change the battery of our water heater if I went in quickly, I smiled about dodging the winter weather outside, so I stepped over the ledge and into the tub.

I felt the water warm my skin and pulled sleep from my eyes, smiling to myself about the prospect of going to Dharma Drum Mountain for Chan meditation, even though I wasn’t familiar with its style.

Afterwards, I got dressed and rushed out of the door.

I smiled at my doorman outside as he lit a cigarette in the cool morning’s dew, and his eyes widened when he noticed me. It was no later than 7 a.m. and I was already on my way to meet Monica, a Taiwanese woman who I’d met at the Jhongli Meditation Centre, and catch the bus to Taipei for an English meditation practice.

After one hour of commuting, we arrived at the Taipei West Bus Terminal and walked out the doors at the station. It was directly across from where the bus we took had parked.

“See those lights,” Monica asked patiently.

“Yes,” I replied. “We turn left here. It’s the first set of lights, try to remember so you can come next weekend, OK?”

“OK,” I replied etching a mental note permanently in my brain. “Turn left at the first set of lights.”

Then what I wondered.

We turned right at a bakery, which faced the first Watson’s Pharmacy that we passed, towards a colourful temple down the street. There was a large building, which resembled an apartment.

“We’re here,” she gestured for me to go inside the building.

“This is it,” I asked. “Wow, it’s so big.”

She nodded pointing at a sign with a list of floors inside of the facility, there were several. My eyes widened in spite of the time of the day. I was eager to learn what was in store for me until we got off of the elevator.

I rushed to the bathroom and didn’t say anything to anybody. I planned to apologize later if anybody’s feathers felt noticeably ruffled upon my return to the foyer.

But when I turned to walk away, I heard Monica tell a practitioner my name.

I smiled instinctively remembering the kindness and compassion that I had felt at the last monastery I attended with people who I gained insight and understanding from and with. I instantly recognized Monica was trying to help make the day easy for me. I looked forward to the practice, but suddenly felt worried about what we would do there and when I returned from the bathroom, a man introduced himself to me immediately.

‘This is for me,’ I thought. ‘Just me, and it’s not for a man to give me a line. That’s the last thing I need right now.’

But I was surprised to learn his name was John.

John, the man who I had exchanged several e-mails with. It seemed strange yet fitting he should be the first one to meet today.

“Oh,” I said with a grin. “It’s nice to finally meet you.”

“You too,” he replied. “Now tell me, how do you practice?”

I felt confused by the question and started wondering what he meant, but instead of asking for clarification, I replied.

“In Edmonton, I learned about Thich Nhat Hanh,” I explained. “We did sitting meditation, and walking meditation.”

“I don’t mean that,” he replied quickly. “How do you practice?

“Here, we focus on our breath. Is that what you learned? It sounded like you have been practicing for a while.”

“Oh,” I said feeling my cheeks flush like a school girl, all the time realizing meditation was still a new and wonderful thing I was learning about every day. “Yes, I focus on my breath.”

“And did you go to the Jhongli Centre that we discussed,” he asked.

“Yes,” I replied gesturing towards my friend. “That’s how I met Monica.”

“Very good,” he said with a smile. “And, how did you find it?”

I laughed a little, remembering the experience fondly in spite of the initial confusion about how to get there, and ignored the fact that the meditation practice was held purely in a language different than my own. This is Taiwan, I thought, that’s what you get.

Local language, local culture.

“It was good,” I said shifting my weight between my feet. “Different, but good.”

“Oh,” he said with a slight rise in his intonation. “How so?”

“The exercise is different,” I said, my mind reeling through a list of differences that I would never be bold enough to explain to a stranger. “But it was OK.”

“It’s not just exercise,” he explained. “It’s moving meditation. It’s like walking meditation.”

I smiled uneasily, wondering if exercise would be the end of my practice or if I could learn to love moving meditation the same way I loved what the Edmontonians had taught me.

“Go inside and make yourself comfortable,” he said.

*****

The room, and brown meditation mats, were divided in half.

I looked around and instantly remembered it was split up based on our gender.

“Which side is for women,” I asked mechanically, without questioning it and pointed across the room. “This one?”

“Find a spot,” John said pointing to the other side of the room. “We’re going to start with moving meditation. Make sure you have enough space for prostrations too.”

My gullet filled up with dread, and I began wondering why I came to practice meditation.

Chan is not my style and I could feel a load of arguments seething back up through my throat, just like my body had rejected the idea.

But I need this, my mind protested, it’s not like an allergy. ‘Get over it’ and ‘Please don’t let exercise be the thing that ruins this for you,’ I told myself nervously.

But it came as no surprise when I started wondering if it might happen anyways. I dreaded the thought. I knew myself and I knew my emotions a little too well at times. I need the practice to be a part of my life in order to lead a happy life, whether it be with, or without the exercise.

So, instead of focusing on what John was saying about exercise, my mind started racing through a long list of ideas collected last night, from my romantic Valentine’s Day. You know, the one I opted to spend alone despite several invitations to join friends, watching clips of TED Talks on YouTube. Maybe I’m getting old, but it was definitely my idea of a good time.

I  dismissed the idea and followed my mind around the corners of its walls, as it raced through a list of ideas about Spoken Poetry by Sarah Kay, and began wondering if it was time for me to make a list. Maybe several. Then, I began making lists about lists that I needed to make.

‘No,’ my mind protested again. ‘Buddhism teaches you to be present, so why don’t you just try to do that.’

I took a deep breath in and tried to get rid of my allergy to exercise, rolling my neck, blissfully unaware of the movement.

Instead, I felt like a newborn taking its first steps. I wobbled around as we moved and stretched, and I tried diligently to do these simple poses without exerting too much energy without revealing too many of my imperfections showing.

‘Just get through it, and move on,’ I told myself.

Then, I was interrupted by a series of loud sounds echoing inside of the plain white room, and my thoughts were drowned by the noise. I watched carefully as a blonde foreign girl sauntered into the room late, and put her stuff in a pile beside a mat on the wrong side of the room.

How couldn’t she notice the room was divided by gender? Isn’t anybody going to tell her?

I would hope somebody would be kind enough to tell me if I made a mistake.

‘No,’ my mind protested. ‘A Buddhist would never tell you that what you’re doing is wrong. They would wait for you to realize it by yourself, or offer some sagely advice that pushes you towards this realization on your own terms. Maybe they would just listen, deeply, though.

I think Buddhism attracts the right kind of people. It’s a religion that encourages us to grow in our own ways. It’s a nurturing religion, and it’s one that would never throw somebody out on their ass, unlike many Western religions do so often with people who cannot conform to the rules.

I distinctly remembered being asked to leave a Spanish church for taking a photo inside of it, and what’s worse was standing in line for hours, to sightsee, but being refused entry to Vatican City in Rome for wearing a dress that merely showed my knees and shoulders when I was a blissfully ignorant 19-year-old.

Why wasn’t there a sign to save people the trouble at least? Because it would make too much sense, right?

These religions preach the same ideas as Buddhism. They teach practitioners to be faithful, and loving, and good, and compassionate; but when a person can’t fill out the pages of their lives based on the spiritual learning in their books, these people are flogged and the organizations refuse to adjust to help them.

Yet, in Edmonton, I listened to the abbot of the Truc Lam Monastery console people with drug addictions, bereavements, lover’s quarrels, children–you name it. He was insightful, and patient to everyone who approached him with question of any variety. I always learned from his Dharma talks because of his humour, wisdom and grace.

So, why can’t other religions do the same thing for people if all of these religions supposedly teach the same ideas.

I wobbled as one of my feet left the ground, and lost track of my ideas for a moment when John said, “Watch your hands. Stay focused.”

It was inevitable, I realized, my monkey mind is back and it was looking for revenge.

*****

I was jilted when the practice shifted back into a sitting meditation.

Everybody sat down on their cushions, and sighed a breath of relief. Somebody even told the Western girl to sit with the women.

She sat down quickly on a mat beside me.

It seemed ironic.

We were sitting in two groups. The room was divided in half based on the number of cushions. There were 50 per nine men and only four women.

Two Taiwanese women sat in front of me, and the foreign girl plunked down on a cushion beside me.

I began waiting for further instructions, but the room fell silent. I kept waiting, wondering why the teacher sat behind us instead of in front of us and when he would talk to us.

I started wondering why the cushions we used at Chan meditation were round, not square and flat like the ones I’d used at Truc Lam.

My feet fell asleep, and I was still waiting for him to give us instructions. I was still wondering why there was no idol in front of us to worship and why it mattered. Then, I started wishing a statue or a mandala, a teacher or a poster was plastered up in front of us to cover up this hideous white wall with nothing on it.

Anything that might help me visualize relaxation and focused. I longed to feel relaxed and believe anything would have been better than a white wall, including someone to model my practice after, like a teacher.

And then, I began wondering why I was waiting to be told to get ready.

Why wasn’t I ready? What did I need to do to get ready? Why couldn’t my mind join my body and enjoy the moment?

But my mind was where it always was. I was making lists, comparing ideas and judging those around me. I wasn’t focusing on my breath, a teacher or a statue. I was focusing on the differences around me and struggling to be present.

Why do I even bother trying to practice?

Then my mind started running through ideas featured on TED Talks.

I was amused that poet Sarah Kay realized she could deliver Spoken Poetry because of a girl in a hoody. I was even more amused that a list could be turned into a poem, like Kay’s student, if you tried hard enough, and when I remembered the concept of making lists, I started sifting through the ideas collected last night after watching San Diego-based poet Rudy Francisco talk about his viewpoints during open mic presentations in California.

Finally, I remembered three TED Talks women gave about sex and laughed about some of the ideas. Maybe they were right, albeit a bit quirky.

I imagined these women talked in the same style I do–erratically, spontaneously, morbidly, curiously, funnily and fluidly.

But one of these women talked about being mindful with sex. She even quoted the Dalai Lama about it during her talk.

I paused for a moment, trying to remember the exact wording. She said, His Holiness once said, “Western women would change the world.”

But how?

If the Dalai Lama said Western women would change the world, why didn’t I question the room being divided based on gender? Why did I adhere to this pattern without seeing a problem? Why are there only two of us, Western women, here practising Buddhism today if that’s really true? And are we really more advanced women than the rest of the world?

The speaker certainly didn’t think so, and neither do I.

I began imagining horrific situations where women might be objectified or abused in other cultures, and began wondering if this idea could be true. Maybe it was.

One hour passed and I had only made a bunch of mental lists to review later.

I had an appetite for philosophy and a good discussion, but couldn’t talk in a room full of people when all I really wanted to do was write, or argue with someone about these topics.

I did not want to meditate.

*****

Walking meditation began, and I couldn’t help but feel that I had been cheating on my sitting meditation.

I spent one hour caught up in memories, thoughts, comparisons and ideas. Maybe I shouldn’t practice Buddhism. Maybe it’s not possible.

I’m a writer and my personal narrator never stops talking.

I struggled, and began wishing my mind could delete files like my computer would, but so far in life, it couldn’t and it hasn’t.

*****

How can a writer be a Buddhist if their inner dialogue never shuts up?

How can a writer take the conversations from their minds and pause them, or delete those files and start fresh at a meditation if they practice?

How can one be truly mindful and focus on breathing if these things never stop?

But, wait, why am I asking questions in this style? With these words?

How is my inner dialogue different than who I am as a person? And why is that qualified as “a bad” and “separate” thing?

How is a conversation with yourself, a different part of you, than yourself, and why is it labelled that way if it’s all in your mind?

How are Buddhist texts written in a surplus of languages if the inner dialogue a writer has never stops making these marks on their souls?

But these things exist, that’s how I came to know about Buddhism, so surely, it’s attainable to practice both of these skills–writing and meditating.

That’s what the Dalai Lama was talking about in his book. People walk around with unattainable dreams, and remain unhappy and dissatisfied with their lives because they have expectations that cannot be turned into reality. We spend so much time dreaming about permanence when everything in life is impermanent and then, we suffer when our dreams don’t come true.

And when their dreams don’t come true, the negative thing that doesn’t behave the way we want it to, becomes separate from ourselves in our mind. We call it names, like “it.”

We blame “it” for being “bad.”

Like, “practising Buddhism is bad.”

It isn’t the practices’ fault that I can’t be present at meditation today, it’s my own fault. Now, I finally understand what he was trying to write about in his book, “How to See Yourself As You Really Are: His Holiness the Dalai Lama.”

I’ve been pouring through the pages of this book for months in spite of all the headaches that “it” filled my head with.

Maybe this is all a dream, and if “it” is just a dream, it’s one that I want to wake up from. “It” isn’t going well, even though I firmly believe Buddhism came into my life at exactly the right moment. “It” is bad.

Or, is it?

*****

When the second round of sitting meditation was finished, and I still hadn’t been present or mindful for my practice, I began to feel disillusioned and annoyed. Suddenly, and without warning, a Taiwanese man addressed the group in English.

“Don’t think of your practice as good or bad,” he said loudly, with a chuckle from the bottom his belly. “Think of it as practice, and we practice simply to practice. The only bad thing we can do, would be to stop the practice.”

I smiled, realizing that the two hours I spent making mental lists and comparisons wasn’t a complete waste. I got to know myself better and learned how to understand my believes more. I got to practice.

‘How can a writer be a Buddhist if,’ I paused for a moment thinking about how to modify the sentence correctly, “our minds never stop?”

Zen master remembered at prayer vigil

It wasn’t the typical drill at Dharma Drum Mountain this weekend.

As many as 5,000 Taiwanese devotees, lay people and monastics escaped the rain and huddled together on Feb. 8 to mourn the fifth anniversary of Chinese Buddhist Master Chan Sheng Yen’s death with a vigil held in his honour.

“He died of cancer one month before my mother did,” said Monica, a Hakka practitioner from Zhongli, who attended the service. “I remember because there was a newspaper article I read at that time. It said this type of Buddhism would die out now that my master has died, and I was really mad.

“Buddhism is a good thing, but too many people misunderstand it, and my master knew this. He used to teach people about it, and now we will continue teaching people about it.”

Yen studied, practised and worked with people in the Republic of China, Japan, the People’s Republic of China and the United States of America. He is widely recognized for taking over Venerable Master Dongchu as the abbot of Nung Chan Monastery and the Chung-Hwa Institute of Buddhist culture in 1978.

He raised awareness about the Buddadharma and converted the methods so everybody could understand and practice Buddhism, but students who followed Yen outnumbered the resources that were available to him in 1989. A plot of land in Jinshan Township, Taipei County, was purchased to cater to his followers, and Yen named it Dharma Drum Mountain.

The cool weather did not hamper or hinder the commemoration of Yen’s life, although it was easy to hear water pouring down the roof of a temporary shelter. It drained off quickly, while the ringing gong reminded people to stay mindful, focused and relaxed while remembering Yen devoted his life to opening people’s eyes to Buddhism.

Buddhism is a widespread religion in Asia that developed a wide variety of spiritual practices to overcome suffering through self-awareness, kindness and compassion.

A procession of Buddhist practitioners and monastics began the service by chanting from the Heart Sutra and placing purple orchids across two large boards of wood covered in artificial grass. Afterwards, a wide variety of nationally elected officials addressed visitors with songs and prayers.

People from all walks of life engaged Yen in interesting dialogues about topics ranging from religion to art, and even history.

But, some people who attended the vigil believe his biggest legacy was teaching about Buddhism in a way that’s easy for everybody to understand.

Yen passed away from cancer on Feb. 3, 2009. His ashes and bones were buried at the Taipei County Jinshan Eco-friendly Memorial Garden where students continue to learn about Dharma.

“I read his biography and it was really humbling,” she said. “But it’s my first time coming to this ceremony. I think it was nice.”

Visiting Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Monastery

I hopped off of a bus filled to the brim with passengers on the side of a dirt road, when suddenly, and without warning, I noticed an overgrown golden Buddha outside of the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Monastery near Kaohsiung.

The Dashu District streets were full of families who were snapping pictures of themselves and celebrating Chinese New Year amidst the cobbled streets, which just happens to house the largest monastery in Taiwan.

I looked around at the humming scooters, cars and buses weaving through the quiet yet busy streets of the community and listened to murmurs from small groups of people before crossing the street and walking uphill towards the statue.

It had been a chore to arrive at the monastery, mainly due to a lack of research, but I couldn’t help but feel calm as I walked through a serene community filled with smiling faces.

I arrived at small gates, and noticed the crowds around me doubling in size immediately. I started panicking about visiting the monastery during a holiday when the bell of mindfulness rang throughout the community and reminded me to breathe. I smiled, breathed in deeply and remembered the lyrics to Thích Nhất Hạnh’s walking meditation mantra Happiness is Here and Now.

At a fork in the road, near a quaint gift shop, I noticed the sun pouring down on my shoulders. I turned right to go up some stairs and decided it was imperative to see exactly how big the statue was from up close. Instead, I walked into the Land of 1,000 Buddhas and looked down at the smog-covered landscape below the monastery.

After walking through the garden, admiring statues of Ksitigarbha and taking in a scenic view of the community; I was surprised to see a Buddhist Memorial below and followed my feet to walk through the graves of strangers. I noticed white orchids growing from the trees, small purple and orange flowers blooming beside the walls and small groups of families paying respect to their loved ones.

I walked slowly, looking at photographs of the people on the graves and imagined who they might have been to others.

When I arrived at a row of stairs, I took the opportunity to move to higher ground and see another part of the building. It was home to a Zen garden, an art and calligraphy gallery and a rest area with complimentary tea. The highlight of the day was watching a wide variety of performances from drummers and dancers outside of the monastery before heading back to Kaohsiung to meet up with some friends.

How to get to Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Monastery:

Visitors in Kaohsiung can take the MRT (subway) to Zuoying Station and catch bus 8011 (formerly 151) directly to the Fo Guang Shan Monastery. The trip to Dashu District takes more than an hour and it’s easy to spend at least two hours walking through the monastery and community.

Alternatively, you can take the MRT to Kaohsiung Main Station and catch a bus that goes directly to Fo Guang Shan with a Kaohsiung iCard (Easy Card). The bus station is located one block left from the High Speed Railway (HSR) and the ticket office has staff that can speak some English.

It is free to visit the monastery upon arriving, however donations are encouraged.

For more information about Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Monastery, visit http://www.fgs.org.tw/english/.

About the author

Canadian reporter Breanne Massey resigned to a life of teaching ESL in Taiwan in 2013.

She started blogging about her experiences abroad after a toddler nearly became her hairdresser and a Taiwanese co-teacher walked into the squatter she was using during her first week on the job. Breanne is always eager to hear about travelling and teaching ESL from others.

She could probably even stand to learn a thing or two about teaching.

Before moving abroad, Breanne worked at WestJet, the Winnipeg Free Press, the Innisfail Province, the Westlock News, the Trail Daily Times, the Ladysmith Chemainus Chronicle and the Alberni Valley News. Her writing has appeared in the Calgary Sun, National Post, Saskatoon Express and the Kamloops Daily News. It has also been published in Mining and Exploration, Kootenay Business, Riders West and RV West magazines.

Breanne is a graduate of Thompson Rivers University’s journalism school and holds a diploma of visual arts.

She would like to run a marathon without training for it, learn several languages without studying them and to see the entire world when she is not busy trolling the internet.

Chinese medicine in Taiwan

“I don’t think she has a medical licence,” my friend Nina said while walking towards the door with a small bag of seeds. “But this is Chinese medicine and we are not in China.”

I followed my friend past the lotus seeds in the shop and walked into the rain. She handed me a helmet two-sizes too-big, and pulled her pink scooter away from the curb. I adjusted the chin strap and put it on, trying to look at the seeds without her noticing.

“She said we don’t have these trees in Taiwan, but I think that’s a lie,” Nina explained while looking back at the shopkeeper. “I don’t know what it’s called. I’ll look up the English name for what this is and tell you later.”

“Where did she say it comes from,” I replied without pausing.

“Indonesia,” Nina said while holding up her phone for me and gesturing towards a Sterculia Lychnophora tree information page. “It’s this.”

“So, it’s Chinese medicine,” I asked with a grin. “But these seeds don’t grow in China?”

“No,” she said, glancing back at me before we began speeding through the streets of Chungli.

I hopped off outside of the grocery store as Nina parked near a horde of black scooters. I could tell she was getting annoyed by my questions, and I was glad that she had been kind enough to help me while I was sick, but I couldn’t resist.

“Isn’t that a bit ironic,” I continued. “It’s Chinese medicine, but it’s actually imported from Indonesia.”

“Why,” she said looking back at me from inside the store in frustration.

I stumbled behind her, coughing a little bit and picked up a colourful bag of food to ask her what it was. I moved the bag into the light and feared the worst, remembering mere days ago when another friend of mine told me I was eating pig’s blood. It didn’t look like blood, it was a cube inside of a soup that tasted delicious, but I probably could’ve done without knowing what I was eating. I have been pleading ignorance since Friday.

“More Chinese medicine,” she said playfully with a smirk.

I looked around the shop and started picking up more mystery foods, repeatedly asking, “What’s it for though?”

*****

I decided to be stubborn and ignore modern-day science, opting to use Chinese medicine to treat my cold after about a week of getting prolonging the inevitable.
After driving around aimlessly on Nina’s scooter in the rain and looking for a Chinese medicine shop, I ended up getting Sterculia Lychnophora tree seeds and spending a lot of time on Google to figure out what exactly we had just bought.
I discovered Sterculia Lychnophora tree seeds are used to remove heat from the lung, to cure sore throats, counteract toxicity and relax the bowels in Chinese medicine. It swells to eight times the size when its soaked in boiling water, which turns into a reddish-brown mass that looks a little bit like a deformed sponge. It can be mixed with tea, sugar candy, red date, haw, licorice, chrysanthemum, lilyturfoot and jasmine tea.
But it’s simply mixed with sugar, ice and basil as a cooling drink in Southeast Asia.
Chinese medicine practitioners believe these seeds can be used to reduce the “hotness” of one’s body, and nurture it back to health from a hoarse voice, dry cough or sore throat. It can treat headaches and help with bloodshot eyes too, but it’s important to use in moderation, as the seeds have medicinal properties that may cause consumption.
Avoid boiling more than three seeds in each drink.

Photos of Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Monastery