Given hubby’s work schedule and the hassle of getting around in Jakarta we haven’t managed to see and do as many things as we would have liked. With this is mind, we have resolved to explore and see more in this chaotic city. Yesterday we decided to visit Glodok which is the “Chinatown” of Jakarta. The history behind the establishment of Glodok is quite sad as the Chinese were pushed to live in these ghettos centuries ago when they were being persecuted and massacred for being different. (Intolerance is a wretched thing). For the most part, Chinese Indonesians are still the predominant inhabitants of Glodok and visiting this part of town is an excellent way to visit Traditional Chinese Wet Markets, Buddhist Temples and I am told great Chinese restaurants (we could not find anywhere to eat so I guess we missed that).
We walked through the streets and spent and inordinate amount of time reminding our 12 year old that she cannot just randomly take people’s photos as it was an invasion of their privacy. Truth be told I wanted to take photos too but had to restrain myself. Yes the elderly Chinese man standing behind his counter eating God knows what would make an excellent black and white photo; yes the man sitting over his stall of live toads and frogs along with many varieties of snails in filthy containers would be quite enthralling but no, we have to respect people’s privacy.
The wet market was great but the highlight of the trip was the Buddhist Temple called Toa Se Bio that was built around 1751 by Hookkian immigrants. The Temple got its name from the fact that the main deity worshipped there is Toa Sai Kong. It was an amazing thing watching the worshippers buy and light their many candles and perform their rituals to each deity. To a Christian looking on it seemed like a strange ceremony. Later in the night while I reflected in between sneezes from the high inhalation of smoke I realized that it may seem strange but it was actually a testimony of a religion that encouraged individual relationship with the one they believe to be most high. The Temple encourages all to worship and pray to whomever they believe is the Supreme One or Ones.
I have never seen so many sizes and shapes of red candles just burning. To some extent I felt in awe and wanted to stay a while longer but for the smoke that burnt my eyes, nose and throat. This is what led me to wonder if Buddhists are never asthmatic. By the time my husband got home his chest was tightening and nearly 24 hours later I still have the smell of smoke in my nostrils and my clothes are as smoky as when I used to frequent some of Jamaica’s favourite night spots. I do not understand: is it that if you are asthmatic you do not practice Buddhism; is it that Chinese (who are the main practitioners of Buddhism) are by nature not afflicted with asthma or is it that the faith is so powerful that such inflictions are deflected by the power of the mind? In my research on Buddhism I found that meditation and its effect on the mind and body can be powerful. (I probably should not share this but: while we lived in the US I joined a class that taught one how to meditate and twice I fell asleep while trying the techniques. My Jamaican pride could not stand being seen among my classmates as the sleeper so I quit). I believe in the possible power of meditation but probably not as fundamentally as those that practice the religion. Within Buddhism there seems to be various principles and practices that are purported as bringing happiness and good health to the body. Is this why there doesn’t seem to be a greater incidence of asthma among Buddhists who practice their religion in the midst of much smoke and ash?
As a Christian (not necessarily a practicing one) I am somewhat skeptical about the power that can be brought from meditation and other such practices but as a social scientist I cannot explain some things and am wondering if the fact that I was born in the West and brought up Christian is limiting my openness to possibilities that could be beneficial to my well- being. What do you think?
Until next time……..One Love!!!!!!