The QiRanger Adventures

Posts Tagged ‘Religion

Four Days in Jakarta

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Our honeymoon was fantastic. We spent our time in Indonesia, and while we were on our own in Jogjakarta and Bali, we were fortunate to have locals to guide us around. After arriving, we promptly headed into the mountains to explore a volcano, but upon returning, it was time to explore Jakarta, the nation’s capital.

One might think that there’s nothing to do, but you’d be wrong. In the morning we headed off to National Monument. Due to it being a public holiday, we couldn’t get tickets to go up the spire, but the scenery around the place was fantastic.

From there we went to the National Museum of Indonesia. It was closed, but a few thousand Rupiah greased some wheels and we were able to go inside. True to form, it included artifacts from the entire archipelago. Not only that, the exhibit included examples of local cultures.

Then it was off to Masjid Istiqlal, the largest mosque in South-east Asia. it happens to have been designed by a Christian… and right across the street is the Catholic Cathedral of Jakarta.

Our day then took us to Mangga Dua for discount shopping. You can’t believe the deals here.

The highlight of the trip was authentic ox tail soup on Mangga Besar. The place with the green sign: Sop Buntut! The meal was fantastic, and if you’re in the area, make sure you stop by!

Our last stops in Jakarta were at Sea World to go SCUBA diving in the main tank with all the fish and Taman Safari. I love diving. It was Jo’s first time and she pulled through like the amazing woman that she is. Taman Safari is a wild animal park. The drive through the paddocks was a blast, but not as fun as holding the baby animals.

Bali Baby!

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House Temple

The third stop on our Indonesian tour was the lovely island of Bali, just to the east of Java. Unlike Java, Bali is a tourist destination and scores of visitors from Oceania make the trip often. Another thing that is quite different from Java is the fact that the native inhabitants of Bali are Hindu, while those on Java are Muslim. This can be seen everywhere, from the architecture to the way that people greet you.

Jo and I were extremely fortunate on this leg of our trip for a number of reasons. First, we had an awesome guide and driver. Made (meaning second born in Balinese), has spent his whole life on the island and over 30 years sharing his experiences with tourists. The second, was that Jo planned everything down to the minute to maximize our tour time so during our our free time we could simply sit back and relax.

Making the Offerings

Our first day started out after having a wonderful breakfast in our hotel. Made picked us up and drove us to a small village about 30 minutes away. During the drive, he let us know that we came at a very special time (our third fortunate reason). Twice a year, the Balinese people make special offerings at the local Hindu Temples. This happened to be that week, so during our stay in Bali, we got to see countless spiritual rituals. Once in the village, we watched an hour-long Barong (traditional) dance.

After that, we were shown some amazing wood and silver crafts, but nothing was better than our lunchtime visit. It was a delightful buffet, followed by a stop at a coffee farm in the mountains. This particular farm makes Coffee Luwak (the one that comes out the other end… if you know what I mean). While that was impressive, Jo and I really enjoyed their other offerings, most notably, a coffee/ginseng combination. It really is amazing.

The rest of the day took around to several other mountain temples and shrines. Our last stop was Goa Gajah, or Elephant Cave. We were the last ones there and had the entire Holy Water pool and cave to ourselves.

Jo and I in front of Taman Ayun

Day two was the most memorable in terms of events, as there were four remarkable places we visited. The first was the temple at Taman Ayun. As I mentioned earlier, we arrived during a special offering time, so while we were at the temple, we had the opportunity to see people come and go, pray, and leave offerings. It was fantastic.

Ulun Danu

Then it was time to hit the road. The day called for us to drive into the mountains and have lunch near Beratan Bedugul Lake. It was very picturesque and tranquil. The food was fantastic as well. But the attraction was amazing. We were there to see Ulun Danu. Two small temples that were actually in the lake. The sight is stunning and immortalized on the 50,000 Rupiah note.

We then drove down the mountain towards Alas Kedaton. This is one of the famed monkey temples. To say that there were thousands of monkeys there would be an understatement. They were everywhere! We had the fortune of being there towards the end of the day and were able to see many of the mothers out playing with their children.

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The final destination of the day was Tanah Lot. It’s famous for the amazing sunsets one can see from the cliffs leading up to the temple. We were not disappointed. Thousands of people were there with us.

After the sun set, we ventured to Jimbaran Bay for a candlelit seafood diner on the beach. The food that we were presented with was amazing. I think we each had the best barbeque crabs on the planet. Roaming the beach was a troupe of musicians that played everything from Brian Adams to Michael Bublé.

From there, we headed back to the motel to start our free time… What an awesome few days! Here are some photos from our trip… the video is forthcoming.

Jogjakarta (Yogyakarta), Indonesia!

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These posts may be a little out of order, but that doesn’t mean that they’ll be any less interesting or fun to read and watch!

Jo documenting my attempt to cross the trees!

Our second stop in Indonesia found Jo and myself in the wonderful central Javanese city of Yogyakarta (or more commonly spelled Jogjarta). It is listed as a special province within that country and happens to be the smallest as well. Furthermore, it is the only province in Indonesia that is still governed by its precolonial monarchy.

Jo and I arrived late in the day and after a quick bite to eat, found ourselves in the center of town. There are two large trees in a central park that are said to have special powers. If one can wear a blindfold and walk from one end of the park to the other, through the trees, it’s said that you’re wish shall be granted. Jo and I each gave it three shots. We failed three times. On my last attempt, I made it to the trees, but then quickly veered right and missed the opening. Some people trying to make their way through the trees were only able to take one or two steps before turning aside.

The first full day found us at sunrise at Borobodur… an awesome sight.

After that, we started our trek into the mountains to see the holy water flowing at the cave of Mother Mary in Sendangsono. We also visited Mendut Temple and local artisans. The day ended with shopping overload on Marlioboro Street.

Our last day in Jogja was also packed! We ventured to Tamansari, the Water Castle. It was amazing to see this little village built around an amazing house with exquisite pools. From there we drove to the Kraton, or Sultan’s palace. We hit a few other places, but our last stop was Prambanan.

Unlike Borobodur, it’s a massive Hindu Temple. It was constructed around the same time as its Buddhist conterpart and is also listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

For more pictures check out the album or the video.

Written by Steve Miller

June 15, 2010 at 4:10 am

Weekend Away

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Myogaksa Temple (Credit: Myogaksa.net)

During the Lotus Lantern Festival, Jo and I participated in a number of booths in front of Jogyesa Temple. Several of the booths were manned by the kind folks at Templestay Korea. During the day, Jo and I visited a dozen booths and received stamps at each one. This was important, since the first 100 people who completed the process would earn a free Templestay (W50,000 value).

When it was all said and done, Jo and I were the 6th and 7th to turn in our forms. When we looked over the details, we were really excited that Templestay gave us three temples to choose from and two months to complete our stay. We decided to do it this past weekend and happy that we did.

Of the three temples we had to choose from, we settled on Myogaksa, in Jongno. It’s one of the few Templestays that offers an overnight experience, so that made it much more worthwhile. Most that participated in our group were English teachers, but we also had a mother-daughter team from Singapore and an exchange student from Thailand. Six Koreans also participated.

The Nun leading the session (여여) had a great grasp of English, but was faced with the challenge of having to switch back and forth to Korean several times, as many of the Korean participants couldn’t speak any English. That aside, I can tell you that this was the real deal when it comes to Templestays… this wasn’t the easy tourist version. This was for those that really want insight into a Korean Buddhist’s life.

We did just about everything listed in the program, except walking in the mountain (canceled due to rain). I found prostrating and making the 108 beaded prayer lanyard especially rough on my old knee injury. When I got home, I couldn’t wait to take some medicine to help quell the pain. I’m sure spending an hour in half-lotus this morning didn’t help things either…

I will say, that getting up at 4am was a bit rough, especially after the excitement of listening to Korea’s win in the World Cup. I’m very thankful Jo and I had this opportunity.

If you have questions about our stay, please post them, I’d be happy to answer them based on my experience. now that I shared with you how I spent my weekend, how did you spend yours?

Written by Steve Miller

June 14, 2010 at 4:00 am

Borobodur: The Video Experience

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Nestled deep in the Javanese jungle, about an hour away from Jogjakarta is Borobodur, one of UNESCO’s World Heritage sight. It was constructed well over 1000 years ago and is still the largest Buddhist temple in the world.

Viewed from above, it’s said to resemble a tantric mandala and Buddhist cosmology. The entire structure was built from over 2,000,000 volcanic stones and pieced together without any type of cement. The structure was built on a mountain and constructed from the top down.

Along the lower levels of the temple, there are over 2,500 reliefs depicting Buddhist teachings and Javanese history. However, only a quarter have been deciphered. Also on the lower levels are over 500 Buddha statues. The hand position varies on each statue dependent on its location. On the upper most level are 72 Buddha statues inside honeycombed stupas.

It’s said that if you can reach through the opening and touch the hand of one Buddha (facing the morning sun) you’ll receive good luck.

Borobodur

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Borobodur Temple - Jogjakarta, Indonesia (Central Java)

My alarm went off at 2am.

Yes, 2am.

This was especially annoying since Jo and I had just gone to bed four hours earlier. However, it was a necessary evil that needed to be performed if we were going to be successful and be ready for the day’s pick-up at 4am.

Yes, 4am.

This morning, Jo and I were scheduled to make an hour’s drive to one of UNESCO’s World Heritage sights: Borobodur. It’s the largest Buddhist temple in the world and we were slated to see the sun rise from the top. That event was to take place around 6am and it was going to be at least an hour’s drive to temple. After traveling so far from South Korea, we were not going to miss this event. Thankfully, we had hired a car and driver, so we were able to get some additional rest on the trip out there.

Upon arrival, we secured our tickets and flashlights and then proceeded to the upper-most level and sat. Scores of additional people came as well, but since we were there early, Jo and I were able to pick out an unobstructed view for the magic that was about to happen.

As the morning approached, we each attempted to position our cameras and get some great shots (and video). In the image to the right, you can see the smoke from an active volcano. While most people were quiet and took in the sunrise, there was one Chinese tour group that periodically spoke as if they were the only ones present and ruined the event for some.

Borobodur is over 1000 years old and forms a perfect square. Viewed from above, it’s said to resemble a tantric mandala and Buddhist cosmology. The entire structure was built from over 2,000,000 volcanic stones and pieced together without any type of cement. The structure was built on a mountain and constructed from the top down. Since we were there for sunrise (at the top), this was how we walked through the temple.

Reaching for luck...Along the lower levels of the temple, there are over 2,500 reliefs depicting Buddhist teachings and Javanese history. However, only a quarter have been deciphered. Also on the lower levels are over 500 Buddha statues. The hand position varies on each statue dependent on its location. On the upper most level are 72 Buddha statues inside honeycombed stupas.

It’s said that if you can reach through the opening and touch the hand of one Buddha (facing the morning sun) you’ll receive good luck. As you can see to the left, Jo gave it a shot.

In all, we spent a good 4 hours walking nearly every inch of the temple. I think I took well over one hour of video (and I have just now begun to edit). Equally memorable about this visit was the reception Jo and I had. Since this is such a massive and important site, several school groups make the trip out there. As we were walking around the temple grounds, it was very common for Jo and I to be stopped and asked to join in school photos. On one occasion, a university class interviewed me (you’ll be able to see some of that in the upcoming video – BTW the interviewer loves Korea’s SS501).

It’s an incredible place to visit and I highly recommend it. Be there for sunrise. You won’t regret it! Here are some photos to wet your appetite for the video.

Written by Steve Miller

June 9, 2010 at 8:23 am

Bongamsa: The Mountain Temple

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There are many Buddhist Temples in Korea. Most are open to the public every day of the year, but one is different. This is Bongamsa. It’s a special zen meditation center of the Jogye Order just out side of Mungyeong.

Nestled in the midst of rolling mountains and tall trees, it offers visitors a wondrous driving experience from Seoul to the base of Mt. Huiyangsan. However, if you’re planning on visiting this temple, make sure you arrive on Buddha’s Birthday, as it is the only day of the year it is open to the public.

There are buses available to the Temple, but if you can, I’d recommend driving, since it makes the experience much more enjoyable. The temple was founded in the 9th Century by Jijeungdaesa.

Jo

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I often get asked about why I love Jo so much. What is it about her that attracts me and drives me to spend the rest of my life with her. I think the best response can be found in Proverbs 31:10-31–

A good woman is hard to find,
and worth far more than diamonds.
Her husband trusts her without reserve,
and never has reason to regret it.
Never spiteful, she treats him generously
all her life long.
She shops around for the best yarns and cottons,
and enjoys knitting and sewing.
She’s like a trading ship that sails to faraway places
and brings back exotic surprises.
She’s up before dawn, preparing breakfast
for her family and organizing her day.
She looks over a field and buys it,
then, with money she’s put aside, plants a garden.
First thing in the morning, she dresses for work,
rolls up her sleeves, eager to get started.
She senses the worth of her work,
is in no hurry to call it quits for the day.
She’s skilled in the crafts of home and hearth,
diligent in homemaking.
She’s quick to assist anyone in need,
reaches out to help the poor.
She doesn’t worry about her family when it snows;
their winter clothes are all mended and ready to wear.
She makes her own clothing,
and dresses in colorful linens and silks.
Her husband is greatly respected
when he deliberates with the city fathers.
She designs gowns and sells them,
brings the sweaters she knits to the dress shops.
Her clothes are well-made and elegant,
and she always faces tomorrow with a smile.
When she speaks she has something worthwhile to say,
and she always says it kindly.
She keeps an eye on everyone in her household,
and keeps them all busy and productive.
Her children respect and bless her;
her husband joins in with words of praise:
“Many women have done wonderful things,
but you’ve outclassed them all!”
Charm can mislead and beauty soon fades.
The woman to be admired and praised
is the woman who lives in the Fear-of-God.
Give her everything she deserves!
Festoon her life with praises!

Written by Steve Miller

February 2, 2010 at 10:13 am

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Say what???

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Part of my morning ritual includes reading various news sources. It’s something that I started back in my college days that I have really come to enjoy. In fact, not being able to have quiet time in the morning to catch up on news makes me feel like I’ve lost out on something. Today as I was going through my RSS feeder, I was amazed at what I came across. In fact, I could not believe what I saw.

It does seem bizarre that, in 2009, a modern European nation would seek to shield religious belief from criticism – yet that is what is happening in Ireland right now. In repealing the 1961 Defamation Act, the Irish government sought to expunge the worst excesses of Ireland’s draconian laws restricting free speech, but in the process it has ended up making offending religious belief a criminal offence.

The full article can be see here.

What are they thinking? The article mentions that the Catholic Church is one to talk about taking criticism in the wake of its child abuse scandal, but to shut the door on criticising religion is a dangerous act. Many readers know that I a a devoutly religious man. The reason I am so, is because I ask hard questions about faith and challenge the status quo to find what is the truth. This act would seek to quell that behavior and criminalize it.

I find it particularly disturbing that the act gives authorities the ability to raid publishers suspected of printing “blasphemous” materials. All that the church has to do is state that something offends them and they consider it to be blasphemous, and BAM – fines are imposed.

This kind of censorship of free speech is severely outdated and needs to shelved. It’s a dangerous situation that could be easily expanded into to speaking out against the government (acts of sedition).

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Written by Steve Miller

July 21, 2009 at 6:43 am

Two Gods?

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A question that often is posed to believers in God, and more specifically to those of Christ, is why does there appear to be a marked difference in the way that God treats people in the Old and New Testaments? This is a good question, since God time and time reigns down destruction in the Old Testament, but in the New Testament shows nothing but love toward His children.

While there are numerous answers to this question, I think there is one that sheds some interesting light on this perceived difference. It comes from the Book of Jeremiah and sums up the forthcoming Messiah in a brilliant way.

From the time Moses lead the Jews out of Egypt, they were never good at keeping his Laws. God, of course, knew this and it was all part of his master plan from the beginning, but it’s important to have that background to understand the following passages. You see, the Israelites constantly tested God’s sovereignty and never truly surrendered to His will.

So eventually God tells Jeremiah the following:

“If you can break my covenant with the day and with the night, so that day and night no longer come at their appointed time, then my covenant with David my servant… can be broken and David will no longer have a descendant to reign on his throne.” Jeremiah 33:20-22

“If I have not established my covenant with day and night and fixed the laws of heaven and earth, then I will reject the descendants of Jacob and David my servant and will not choose on of his sons to rule over the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. For I will restore their fortunes and have compassion on them.” Jeremiah 33:25-26

This is a powerful challenge, since God basically says, “If you can control day and night, then the promise I made to David can be broken.” In fact, God also says, “If I’m not telling you the truth about creating everything, I’ll sever the covenant right now.” Since man cannot control day and night and only God can create, then the covenant stands.

In addition, God promised David that a descendant would rule over Israel for all time. When you fast-forward to the time of Jesus, you have not only the Son of God, but also a man in direct lineage from David. So when Jesus comes to Earth, He brings that compassion to those within the Kingdom.

So from the very beginning, God had planned to rule with love. He set forth an incredible amount of rules for man to live by to be holy and right with him and we couldn’t, and like a stern father, God laid down consequences. But this was done to bring the human race to a point where God says very plainly, that He is going to bring a descendant of David to rule with compassion for all time.

This is further shown by the changes in the requirements in what it takes to be right with God. During the times of the Old Testament, one had to abide by the Holy Code in Leviticus. But with Jesus, God truly shows is love for us by stating it even simpler: Believe that I came to earth as a man, died for your sins, and you will enter the Kingdom. That is the ultimate act of compassion.

Written by Steve Miller

June 6, 2009 at 12:33 pm

Posted in Religion

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