In a world shattered by senseless violence and fanaticism, it is comforting to see a society exuding poise at almost every corner. Without overrating the Taiwanese social fabric, which has to deal with its own set of problems, it manifests signs of equilibrium and purpose in unobtrusive ways. Two of these striking features are the average people’s relation with food and the degree of dedication to traditions exhibited in small stores everywhere.
Regarding food, vegetarian and vegan restaurants abound. One of the most remarkable ones, which makes my life here much easier, is the restaurant Sùshí Tiāndì 素食天地 (The Heaven and Earth of Vegetarian Food) near Shida (National Taiwan Normal University 國立臺灣師範大學, abbreviated as Shīdà 師大). It provide an affordable buffet for lunch and dinner, which costs on average between 100 and 200 Taiwanese dollars depending on the weight (100 Taiwanese dollars roughly correspond to 3 US $). There are about 50 different dishes available every time, and they are different from day to day. Here is a view showing inside the restaurant, with a statue of the Bodhisattva Guānyīn 觀音 presiding over the buffet:
For a picture with a better resolution, see: http://www.smugmug.com/photos/i-qxXWLsb/0/S/i-qxXWLsb-S.jpg
Regarding dedication to traditions, examples are visible on main avenues as well as in the tiny back alleys. Here is one illustration: a dry cleaning store with its striking bright altar.
For a picture with a better resolution, see: http://www.smugmug.com/photos/i-396j6HB/0/L/i-396j6HB-L.jpg
In relation to the delicate topic mentioned at the beginning of this post, displays of senseless violence feeding the media frenzy, today’s language class included an interesting exchange. As we discussed the premisses of the Buddhist tradition, I was asked whether even “bad people” such as “terrorists” also possess the Buddha nature. My unequivocal reply was that wúmíng 無明, “ignorance” or “nescience,” constitutes the root of all negativity. This entails asking the complex question of what can be done to remove the layers of ignorance covering the minds and hearts of the largest portion of mankind, beginning with oneself. Since providing a verbal answer will not suffice, this awareness ought to translate into action, educational, pedagogical, humanitarian, engaged, or otherwise.