Built in 1601 by Lord Nguyen Hoang, Thien Mu Pagoda known as the ( Heavenly Lady ) is the oldest religious building in Vietnam, situated on Ha Khe hill, on the north bank of the Perfume River. Legend has it, that an old woman appeared on a hill and said that a Lord would come and build a Buddhist pagoda for the country’s prosperity. Lord Nguyen Hoang heard of this prediction and ordered the construction of the “Heavenly Lady”. The temple complex is divided in seven successive tiers, each of which is dedicated to a human form taken by Buddha as he reached enlightenment. A complex of monastic buildings lies in the center, where the monks perform there duties, and novices practice their calligraphy. A building houses a national relic: the car in which the monk Thich Quang Duc rode from his temple to Saigon on June 11, 1963. He stepped out of the car in an intersection, sat down in the lotus position, and burned himself to death in protest against the regime’s violations of religious freedom. At the end of the complex is a large  cemetery at the base of the Truong Son mountains and a  sacred garden of pine trees. The pine’s are revered throughout the complex as a symbol of peace and fortitude. A walking meditation, as I observe this serene place, inhabited by wisdom and devotion, contemplating the buddhist way of life. A harmonious atmosphere, watching each monk enjoy there duties, the pruning of the hundred year old bonsai’s, calligraphy of ancient text, and the many rituals of devotion to buddha.

©Chloe Garcia Ponce – All Rights Reserved