On Monday, 26th October 2020, a group of Form 4 students at St. Margaret College Secondary School, Verdala, Cospicua experienced a lesson about Chinese Buddhist rituals and practices in link with their R.E. study unit about Religions of the World. This school project was coordinated by senior teacher Martin Azzopardi sdc and it was held on the School China Corner which this year marks its 10th anniversary. The aim of this project was to make students aware of other faiths, rituals and practices as part of their syllabus.
Teacher Martin Azzopardi sdc said; “Our Christian faith is based on love and respect and introducing my students to Chinese Buddhist rituals and practices was not just a lesson in multiculturalism but an invitation towards understanding and respect”.
The three main religions of China are Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism. Both Taoism and Confucianism originated in China but Buddhism was introduced to China from India. Chinese history and culture is influenced by these three main religions which all left their imprint on Chinese culture. For more than 2,000 years Buddhist religion (in particular) influenced Chinese literature, art, architecture, philosophy and even morality.
Chinese Buddhism is considered as one of the oldest forms of Buddhist rituals and practices in history and it follows mostly the Mahayana School of thought. Mahayana Buddhism teaches that one can achieve enlightenment in a single lifetime. This Buddhist school of thought originated during the Kushan Empire and spread to China and other Asian countries like Japan. In Chinese Buddhism one can observe a mixture of thoughts from both Taoism and Buddhism and the Buddha is not just a teacher (like in original Buddhist teaching) but also a ‘god’ to whom one can pray and ask for salvation. In fact in Chinese Buddhism one can pray to both the Buddha and to Taoist ‘gods’ and family ancestors are shown high respect and reverence. The Chinese statues and images of the Buddha are normally depicted strong and healthy and along the Silk Road one can still see many of these Buddha statues and images carved in stone. The most common image of the Buddha in China is called the ‘Budai’ or the ‘Smiling Buddha’ which shows that the main aim of Chinese Buddhism is to live a happy and harmonious life.
The main schools of Buddhism in China are; the Chan School, Pure Land School, Tiantai School and the Huayan school which differ in some rituals and practices. However, these four main schools of Chinese Buddhism all emphasize the practice of meditation.
The term meditation refers to a variety of practices that includes techniques meant to promote relaxation, build internal energy (chi) and develop Compassion, Love, Patience, Generosity and Forgiveness.
Meditation entails also an internal effort to control and clear the mind in some way able to ease also health issues, such as high blood pressure, depression, and anxiety.
At the end of this session held in class students had the opportunity to listen to a Chinese Buddhist mantra while enjoy a display of Buddhist Prayer beads, prayer wheels and other ritual objects commonly used during Buddhist meditation.
Teacher Martin Azzopardi sdc and his students express their special thanksgiving to the Malta China Cultural Centre, the China Embassy in Malta and the Malta/Sino Friendship Society for their continuous support and encouragement.
St. Margaret College Secondary School Verdala students: Maya Bartolo and Hayden Agius.