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An Overview and Analysis of Day Tour of The Teo Chew Temple

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I’ve always been conflicted on the classification of Buddhism. In many aspects, it’s a religion, but at the same time the teachings feel more like a philosophy than a pious faith. The simple honesty of Buddhism is refreshing; the straightforwardness of the Four Noble Truths are raw and sensible, unlike the lofty claims of other religions, many of which are inconsistent and unconvincing, but of course that all comes down to opinions. While reading about Buddhism has been fascinating, seeing it being practiced in person is eye opening, as the variations from the text to the real world make it a journey worth experiencing.

I recently went to see Houston’s Teo Chew Temple, a Vietnamese temple with Cambodian-Chinese influences, which my grandmother visits weekly. It is. Accompanying her this time, she helped explain the numerous functions of the location. The first thing a visitor notices is the architecture of the buildings: bright shades of red, white, and gold adorn every pillar, sign, and roof, complete with ornate statues and carvings. Initially, the intricacy makes me curious, for my previous understanding of Buddhism led me to believe that one aspect of the philosophy was minimalism. Siddhartha expressed how he went from his riches to a far more down to earth lifestyle, devoid of lavish enjoyments (Trainor 28). I would like to know why everything is so well decorated in Buddhism. However, this was just the first of the variations I observed of Buddhism, but of course everything is up to an individual’s interpretation.

Upon entering the largest chamber of the temple, a visitor will see that the patterns from the exterior continue into the interior. The sights are rich in color and detail. Moreover, the smell of incense greets us. There are several shrines in the large room, and my grandmother tells me that each one is dedicated to a different deity, fitted with large statues, and each one representing a different virtue, such as wealth and love, amongst others. For this trip, she brought oranges to place as an offering at the fortune shrine, probably because she was planning to buy lottery tickets this week. She describes to me how the offerings that people leave can also be taken by others who need it, which intrigued me greatly. This is a great demonstration of selfless generosity, and no doubt this helps the less privileged people come to this establishment. A little research after the trip revealed that the Teo Chew Temple belonged to Mahayama Buddhism (Titthara, 2003). One element I am still curious about is the plethora of gods that were there, for I’ve always felt that Buddhism was very human, meaning it was more about understanding oneself rather than higher beings getting involved in an individual’s path towards enlightenment. Is this part of Buddhism in general or just the Mahayama sect of Buddhism? Furthermore, despite the amount of visitors and monks present that day and the size of the room, it was considerably silent; the tranquility most likely helps create a quiet space and a sanctuary for meditation, and I cherished the calm atmosphere.

Along with the main room, there were also side paths and rooms, the designs reminiscent of its Chinese roots. One other important structure housed the remains and memories of countless ancestors. While I did not actually enter that room, it was apparently filled with pictures and tributes to lost loved ones, which I’ve learned is a large part of Buddhism (Peggy, 2017). It wasn’t something I thought of before, but with the idea of reincarnation, how are ancestors so important? It’s a difficult question, but I wonder how they are prominently featured when they have a chance of being reborn. What happens to them in relation to past life, or in other words, the people they leave behind? I would think being reborn nearly severs the connection completely. Perhaps it’s a cultural concept. On that cultural note, my grandmother told me how she could ask for blessings and good luck charms from the monks there. Items include red envelopes that a person is supposed to place underneath their pillow to ward off evil, as well as small posters with deities printed on them that are hung up around a house to bring in good luck. Just by the red envelopes alone, I believe this temple is influenced by the Chinese background, and every little nuance of Buddhism makes my learning process that much more captivating.

By the time that I left Teo Chew Temple, I was more curious than when I entered. The discrepancies between the written sources on Buddhism and the temple itself fueled my interest to better understand the philosophical religion, or religious philosophy. Whether the differences are based on sects or culture, there is definitely more to explore on this topic. As I continue to acquire more knowledge on the subject, I am sure my appreciation for Buddhism will only grow alongside it.

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An Overview and Analysis of Day Tour of the Teo Chew Temple. (2019, January 28). GradesFixer. Retrieved October 28, 2021, from
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