Divine rock formations

By FOONG THIM LENG, The Star, August 18, 2010

Bercham, Malaysia -- VISITORS to Meow Yuen Zen Buddhist Monastery will get the impression that they are in a garden where rock formations are sculptured by divine hands.

Passing through the gates of the monastery in Taman Pakatan Ipoh in Bercham, one will notice a landscaped garden with potted plants and flowers, bamboo and ferns and figurines of deities sitting on notches found in rocks.

Prayer flags can also be seen fluttering in the winds at the fringe of the monastery sitting below a limestone outcrop.

Walking towards the main hall of the monastery, one can view on the cliff surface of the hill an image that resembles a lion head.

Instantly, the spirituality of the place is revealed as the lion is one of Buddhism’s most potent symbols associated with nobleness, strength and power.

Even the Buddha’s teachings are sometimes referred to as the Lion’s Roar.

Another striking feature is an image of a face on another part of the cliff, which devotees liken to the Goddess of Mercy Guan Yin that the monastery is dedicated to.

The image of a giant claw can also be seen in one of the caves.

“For a while, I thought that it was a giant monster from the movie Transformers crushing a van,” said a visitor, L.Y. Ho.

She also pointed out the formations of stalactites that looked like serpents near the altar in the cave.

“All these strange formations create a sense of mystery. It is as if we are in another world and the formations are creations by divine hands,” she said.

Another visitor S.C. Chan interprets the claw image as a warning from the gods that all who commit bad deeds will face punishment in the next life.

Serpents and snakes are symbols found in Buddhism. An example of a serpent used as a positive symbol is Mucalinda, the king of snakes who shielded the Buddha from the tempest as the Buddha sat in meditation.

Monastery abbot Venerable Sik Yat Fai said a rock image of Guan Yin sitting on the lion’s head could be seen if one look at the monastery from far.

“The monastery stands on a shrine worshipped by farmers in Bercham in the early 1960s,” he said.

The shrine was abandoned by the farmers when they were evicted to make way for development in the area in the 1970s.

Ven Sik was one of the monks who used the caves for shelter occasionally. In 1982 he decided to raise funds to build a monastery at the 0.4ha site and received strong support from Buddhists in Ipoh and Taiwan.

Although the monastery follows the Mahayana practice, Ven Sik has set up a section for Theravada and Vajranaya devotees within its compound.

“It is not wrong to follow any school of teaching. They all teach Buddhism,” he said.

In conjunction with the Hungry Ghost Festival, the monastery will hold a ceremony to recite the Lotus Sutra, Di Zhang Pu Sa Repentance Chant and make offerings to the hungry ghosts from Sept 1 to Sept 7. For details, call the monastery at 05-5363962.