The monk who sold his property for Buddha

By Times Headline Writer

VARANASI: In the bestseller ‘The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari’ Ju lian Mantle turns to introspection and discovers his spiritual self to evolve as a monk. In the process, he sells his Ferrari. The story of Buddhist scholar from Vietnam Doan Lam Tan is similar.

Tan sold his car and property to take up a job in Sarnath, the place where his deity first taught Dharma and where the Buddhist Sangh came into existence.

A person with a normal life, things changed for Tan after the call of a monk and a dream. “It began when a monk offered me a job but at the remuneration of just $1 per month.It was not even enough to sustain me. Thus, I apologized,” he said, adding, “but the refusal landed me in a strange sense of restlessness.”

Tan could not sleep properly and would keep feeling low. The state of mind translated into a dream one night.

“I felt the energy of Buddha around me in the presence of a monk who told me that I was trapped in the cycle of birth and death because I had not fulfilled the purpose I was born for. The voice told me to go to India,” he shared. The enlightenment drove the scholar, who now holds three doc torates in Buddhist studies, to accept the $1 job offer in Sarnath.

“I went to my mother and asked her to give me my share in property so that I can pay for travel cost to India for this job. I also sold my belongings and my car to be able to sustain myself and landed in the land of Buddha,” Tan said.

Once here, the monk showed him a vast piece of land, asked him to stay there and build a beautiful temple of Buddha.

“He also told me that unless I build the temple, I cannot be free,” Tan stated. Young Tan kept shuttling between Sarnath and Vietnam for the first two years to collect money to be able to start the work. He even resorted to crowd funding several times and eventually the temple’s foundation stone was laid on December 6, 2009.

By the end of December 12, 2014, the Sivali Vietnamese Buddha Temple came into being. A statue of Ashoka, who is said to have taken Buddhism to the world, has been recently added.The task on Tan’s agenda now is to get the approach road to the temple built. He has written to the Prime Minister, Union tourism minister and authorities at UP Tourism and is awaiting re sponse.

Locally known as gulabi mandir because of the pink sandstone used in raising the structure, the temple is situated about a kilometre from the Sarnath railway station.

“The mesmerizing beauty of this place is yet to catch the eye of the usual visitor because it is off the main complex in Sarnath,” said Prateek Hira, chief of UP Tour Operators’ Association.

Those who can reach out are bowled over by its beauty and appeal.

“It is certainly home to one of the most beautiful Buddha statues in India,” said Abhishek Ratan, a visitor.

Manager with a private telecom company SK Singh feels, “Buddha in this temple smiles.Most Buddha statues I saw in Sarnath carried his serious, calm or meditating look, but not this one.”

One can reach the deity only by crossing a Sanchi-like gate.But, while the original gate in Sanchi bears Jataka legends (stories from Buddha’s previous birth), this one narrates the journey of Buddha’s transformation.

Locals attribute the beauty of the temple to Tan’s hard work.”The man himself is an inspiration and that’s why the locals revere him so much even when they can barely understand his words,” said Bhikku Chandima, former head of Baudh Shodh Sansthan, UP . Chandima shares that Tan’s barter is famous in the region.

“Since Tan doesn’t cook, he takes five chapatis daily from a household in a nearby village.In return for that, he gives them 20kg of wheat flour every month.That flour feeds them too,” said Mohan, a resident.

A cell phone, a bicycle and a laptop are the only assets Tan has besides the belongings of a Bhikku.

(With inputs from news agencies)

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