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Seeking Solace Amidst Chaos:  

The Spiritual Surge in Asian Temples and Pagodas 

-Thao Hoang Phuong Ngo, MAPREP student from Vietnam

Under the law of interdependence, wars and political tensions have been causing economic crises among countries. Asian countries, where spiritual traditions are strongly practiced, experience a surge of people seeking refuge in pagodas and temples during times of worldly crisis. It seems that in the midst of chaos and uncertainty, humanity yearns for a sacred refuge to help themselves and others navigate through the sorrowful situations of the world. This phenomenon reveals the innate spirituality within each individual, but it has two aspects that need to be understood. 

On one hand, people visit temples and pagodas to seek happiness because no being desires suffering; all beings seek happiness. In the chaotic world, people feel small, scared, and fragile. Therefore, they entrust their souls to sacred figures in these temples, hoping for salvation. There are beautiful meanings behind prayers. Engaging in prayer provides individuals with moments to alleviate weariness and stress. The holy environment, accompanied by the pleasant aroma of incense and surrounded by sincere hearts in a quiet place, undoubtedly helps people calm down and clear their minds. Consequently, their good qualities are revived and nurtured. Thus, visiting temples and pagodas can help people alleviate suffering and find temporary happiness. 

On the other hand, if people visit pagodas and temples merely to light incense, say prayers, offer money, and blindly hope for good health, successful business ventures even in times of worldly crisis, and greater wealth and fame than others, they will inevitably experience suffering resulting from the consequences of their seemingly virtuous actions in these places. The concept of a God or Creator who possesses unlimited power to grant blessings and protect human life and wealth has been ingrained in human ancestry. However, Shakyamuni Buddha has shown sincere Buddhists the path to understanding the truth that empowers individuals to liberate themselves from all suffering. Therefore, those who solely engage in ritualistic practices at pagodas or temples without gaining an understanding of the law of cause and effect or the dependent origination of all phenomena will remain trapped in their own delusions. In other words, the more money, incense, and prayers they offer with the hope of defying the law of cause and effect, the more suffering they will experience in the future due to the disappointment of their unfulfilled wishes. Those who truly benefit from visiting pagodas or temples are those who take advantage of the serene environment to calm their minds and contemplate the impermanence, suffering, and happiness they have experienced. Based on this reflection, they may come to realize the causes of their suffering and resolve them. This is the wisdom that is essential for anyone practicing religious traditions. 

Ultimately, the surge of people flocking to pagodas and temples during worldly crises demonstrates that humanity should not chase after material possessions or the transient external world. While possessing the precious human body, people should search for the meaningful, true happiness of the liberation state. 

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