A shore excursion took me to this famous Buddhist Temple in Hong Kong.\nSince I live in Singapore, my attitude was one of\u00a0 \u2018been-there-done-that\u2019. The building the architecture, the nestling of culture within ultra modern skyscrapers were all as I expected.\nBut for me an experience in the worship place of any religion is always beautiful. Less because of the spiritual element, more because how humans make temples and churches and pagodas into buildings that must be respected, buildings in which the atmosphere is micromanaged to attain the aura of serenity, buildings in which, everyone, upon entry, leaves behind their bitterness, their anger and their negativity turns into\u00a0 a nicer, a more humble and a more respectful person.\u00a0 This training we all received as children from our parents and they from their parents\nAnd so here we are, climbing up for a spiritual experience.\n\nWONG TAI SIN TEMPLE\n\n\nCulture within modern skyscrapers\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nOfferings of incense\n\n\n\nThis temple is popular with locals of all generations and not just because of its central location.\n\nHere, people come to have their fortunes told or have their questions answered with fortune sticks.\n\nKneeling on one of the prayer stools in the temple courtyard, the worshipper faces the temple, prays and mentally asks a specific question about her future. These are\u00a0 usually related to success at work or school, health issues, love issues or social issues or anything at all \u2013 such as \u2018will my mother allow me to get a dog\u2019 (ref: my daughter at a temple in her childhood). These questions may also relate to life choices \u2013 should I select Option A or Option B.\nThe open box of sticks is held, shaken up and then given an upward thrust so tat one of the sticks falls out. Each stick is inscribed with a sutra and the one that falls out must be seen as the answer to one\u2019s questions.\n\nUniversity students \u2013 probably asking about their exam results\n\n\n\nA fascinating psychological soother!\u00a0 While one can really not influence the mechanics of the world nor increase or decrease the probabilities of things happening around us, it is always hard to have unanswered questions. And rituals such as these pacify the storms of the mind during times of uncertainty.\nOne similar ritual that changed the course of my life very dramatically came to mind: When offered with a job outside India over a decade ago, we were unable to make up our minds. The money was great in my husband\u2019s\u00a0 new job offer but so was his career in India. It would have been easy to choose between black and white.\u00a0 But even with all the critical analysis and logical thinking put in by two MBAs grads, it was very difficult to choose between two shades of white.\nWe had been discussing these issues with our close elders. And one aunt, spiritually inclined, decided to use the wisdom of her favorite god \u2013 Ganpati to decide. She wrote the two alternatives on two small pieces of paper, folded them up, shuffled them and mixed them up. Now no one knew which paper had which option written on it. She placed the two bits of paper in front of an idol of Ganpati and left it there for awhile. After she finished her day\u2019s work and her evening bath, she sat down for her evening prayers before the idol. After chanting and praying, she picked one of the two chits and our fate. A huge turning point. Brought about by what I call the forces of probability and what she calls destiny.\nComing back to the moment in Hong Kong \u2013 I walked around and took in the atmosphere through my senses and through my camera. And that is when I noticed the lady in the last row of kneeling stools. Alone. Isolated. She preferred it that way I think. Because she was in tears. Completely distraught and the tears were unstoppable. The Chinese are always in perfect control of their emotions and rarely put up their inner feelings for public display \u2013 so this lady \u2018s tears meant she was in really great distress.\nHer situation was breaking her heart.\u00a0 What her tragedy was I will never know. But it was obvious that this was not about success at school or work. It probably involved a huge personal\u00a0 loss \u2013 either one that had already been incurred or an impending one.\n\nShe pleaded and sobbed.\n\nAnd I could do nothing to save a fellow human being from that trauma. And so I cried silently too.\nFor her, for Kevin Carter, for my own helplessness.\u00a0 For the unsolvable tragedies of life.\n\nJM\nAugust 2013\nThe post Praying in a Hong Kong Temple appeared first on The Art Blog by WOVENSOULS.COM.