Sunday, February 12, 2012

Vietnam 24: Thien Mu Pagoda and Buddhist Orphanage

by Pa Rock
The monk and his baby
Happy Buddha

One of my  favorite stops during our hurried week in Vietnam was the Thien Mu Pagoda in Hue which was also the site of a Buddhist orphanage for boys that was run by an order of monks.  Orphans and children who can't be cared for by family are left at the facility, often as babies, and they grow up there working for the monks.  They may leave any time family comes to take them out.  Those who remain until the age of eighteen are then given the option of going out into the world, or remaining there and becoming monks themselves.

The newest orphan
Two days before we arrived a newborn baby girl was left at the orphanage.   A monks was walking around holding her.  We were told that when the baby was a couple of months older she would be given to an order of nuns and raised by them.

Thien Mu Pagoda
I had been accosted almost daily since our trek up Marble Mountain by Vietnamese who would pat my belly and then say, quite cheerfully, "Happy Buddha!"  On this day as we were visiting the orphanage, the monk who was holding the baby girl came up to me and patted my belly, smiled, and said "Happy Buddha."  I chose to look on that as he was using my resemblance to the Buddha to bless the baby.  Or else he was blessing me!  Either way, I took it as quite an honor.

The orphan boys of the Pagoda orphanage work for the monks - scrubbing floors, cleaning, and setting up the tables for meals and later clearing them off.  They appeared to be a very happy and playful lot.

One interesting exhibit at the orphanage is the car that a monk, Thic Quang Duc, drove to Saigon before setting himself on fire in protest of the governments anti-Buddhist actions.  The picture of the monks sitting on the ground, aflame, in front of the car, became world famous.

Our guide standing before a large
brass Buddhist bell
Historical statuary
Large brass Happy Buddha
On the grounds of the orphanage
Another view of the orphanage grounds
Small pond at the orphanage
A smaller pagoda
The actual car of Thic Quang Duc,
the burning monk
Tourist shops outside of the Pagoda grounds

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