The Nan Tien Temple is the biggest temple in the southern hemisphere. “Nan Tien” in Chinese, literally means “Paradise of the South”, and that it truly is!
Tea and Buddhism have a long history together. Buddhism was introduced to China in the Han Dynasty; tea was instantaneously embraced for its healthful properties and rejuvenation abilities. Monks found that tea helped them stay awake and focused during long hours of meditation. Tea became a necessity for these holy men, an “elixir of life” that should be consumed daily by all people. Tea first became popular in temples, and then a part of daily routine among monks and Buddhists and then finally became a vital part of Chinese life. According to a Chinese proverb, tea is said to be one of the seven essential elements needed in daily life.
The Temple is a two minute drive from the home I lived in for 15 years and a sight I saw every day on the route I used to take to work. I always had good intentions of going but never quite made it. Maybe as I am getting older and somewhat wiser (I like to think), I am more interested in finding the true meaning of life and how to live it wholly and mindfully, in this crazy society. Studying tea has also taught me to slow down and be present in the moment, and I thought the temple would be a great place to start.
Seeing that the weather had finally warmed up yesterday, I took the opportunity to take a walk to the Nan Tien Temple. Wandering up the long road to the entrance jacaranda trees in full bloom enveloped me, and a very large Buddha (a statue of course), who was looking mighty jolly greeted me at the entrance. I instantly felt calm in the presence of my surroundings, listening to the birds and looking up, to see a family of dragonflies hovering up above me.
Readers, I'd also like to share something beautiful that I experienced on my visit. I took a seat in the shade; a quiet spot - away from the bustle of tourists. As I sipped on my tea, I found myself not thinking about anything or anyone just being present in that simple moment. I felt at peace in the silence and smiled with happiness. I was happy because I felt content in just being alive, in that very second - I felt a real appreciation for life. Just me, that moment and my tea. I didn't really know what to expect coming to the temple, at the very least I was hoping for a good cup of Oolong, but what I found was what I can only explain as mindfulness, or joy, or peace (I'm struggling to find the words)!
With a belly full of tea and seriously satisfied, I lazily made my way out of the Temple, knowing that I will return to this magical “Paradise of the South”.