Life Life

18/12/2019 - 08:14

Orchids at a pagoda

In springtime, visiting pagodas in Hue is like entering another world.

To Thich Thien Niem, beautiful orchids in bloom at the pagoda are the result of his days of hard work.

After freezing days of rain and storms, Hue changes itself with new buds and leaves. Apricot blossom, peach blossom and lots of other flowers open while the spring is coming. Looking at them, one feels serene and peaceful inside. 

There is a monk who loves spring in a quiet way. He loves nature and innocent beauty. He loves the beauty of earth and heaven. Only man can feel those fleeting moments and happiness from small things. 

Thich Thien Niem is such a monk. He combines his love of beauty and the life of a monk. Every day, after his studies and other Buddhist duties, he spends some time for his own small space on the terrace of his pagoda where the sun, the wind, the sky, the cloud and the dew combine. Up there is another world, a green and beautiful space at his ancient pagoda of Thien Minh on Nam Giao Slope.

I have known Thien Niem since many years ago when he began his hobby. He was at high school at the time. Finding enough money for tuition was hard, let alone money for his hobby. He saved the lucky money that he was given every year to buy small orchids. 

Year after year, he now owns hundreds of beautiful and well-tended orchids. With his meticulous and whole-hearted care, his orchid collection is now richer than before; so is his experience. His secret is being close and listening to each kind of orchid to take good care of it, not using many chemicals. His orchids are thus always colorful with thick petals and can stand bad weather very well.

When his gia hac (literally meaning imitation crane) are in bloom, I drop in on him drinking tea and beholding his flowers. It is such a beautiful sight beyond description. He has various species of orchid both internal and exotic. His flowers make the pagoda become vivid and eye-pleasing. 

I am taken aback at and admire this young monk’s diligence. His gia hac of various colors, which he has collected from his field trips or exchanged with friends in and out of Hue, can please orchid fans.

To have such an orchid garden is a great love. He cherishes each root and every drop of water. He said there were times when he had to study while taking care of his orchids. It was like two things that supplemented each other. Orchids helped him relax. It is a simple but extremely holy joy in the life of a monk.

“Buddhism is not separate from life;” his orchid growing is also a way to be close to nature and grow compassion. How lovely is his combination of the life of a monk and the passion for nature!

He knows how to arrange time for his orchids. When they are in bloom, he offers them to the Buddha or gives visitors. They are like his heart to life and to visitors from far and wide. What a virtue!

Story and photo: TRAN VINH THINH