I went to see a friend on Sunday who was staying for a few days as a guest at a Amaravati Buddhist Monastery in Hertfordshire.
Now I am not religious having been to a Catholic school I reckon I have spent enough time on it. This place though is very interesting it looks a little like a holiday park. A photo shows me sitting on a monument in the gardens dedicated to an important Buddist monk. The grounds are a mix of children playing in the sunshine and people wandering around chatting. Scattered around the large grounds are workshops, gardens and a library. The temple is very serene and invites you to come and wonder at the origins of this faith. Just like you would in any cathedral or church. Prayer mats and candles give a quiet peaceful air to the temple and the Buddha sits elevated and dominant surveying the view. Pretty side altars look important the statues are obviously old but gleam with loving care. Everywhere is beautifully minimal and because of this the statues seem even more striking. The Temple is a modern building seen in a photo just behind one of the garden spaces. There is a feeling of tranquillity here that is enhanced by the design of the place. I felt like I was walking through an out of season exclusive holiday park. The large bell which is rung at 5am is outside the building where the guests sleep. No chance of not hearing that alarm then. The monks and nuns who live at the retreat are well used to the 5 am wake up. That`s a little early for me I thought only birds woke at that time. Obviously so do the dedicated. This is a large place and anyone who wants to bring some food as a contribution is welcome to join the daily meal at 11 am. The evening meditation session in the Temple each evening is also open to anyone wishing to attend. My friend says it is very popular. People come for the 11 am meal and stay for hours often until the evening worship. At weekends families come and the place seems very lively then. I left feeling very honoured to have spent some time there.