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Talk of the Day -- Monks and nuns learn swimming

2011/09/18 18:57:14

A group of Taiwanese monks and nuns, joined by counterparts from Korea, Vietnam and Bhutan, have completed a special training session in which they literally learned to "swim across to the other side."

"Swimming to the other side of the river and helping others do so" is at the center of Buddhist tenets, but people rarely see any monk or nun swim because of a rule against "playing in water."

Below are excerpts of a report by local daily China Times on the international training program:

Lin Chen-tsai, chairperson of the Taiwan Wisdom Action Aspirant Water Life Saving Association, which co-sponsored the three-day training session, said the Buddhist rule actually advised members of the sangha (the community of ordained monks and nuns) not to waste time on meaningless activities, rather than against learning how to swim and help rescue people from drowning.

"Once a person learns lifesaving skills, he will not casually give up life and will be able to appreciate life and protect life," Lin said.

Working with the Buddhist Association of Taipei, the TWAAWLSA launched a "sangha members swimming session" last year, training more than 30 monks and nuns for two days in fresh and sea water.

The 2010 session was so successful that both associations decided to hold another one this year, but did not expect to draw more than 200 participants, mostly temple leaders from around Taiwan. More nuns than monks took part.

Over 200 licensed volunteers and 100 coaches taught them how to swim and how to rescue others. The training program attracted more than 10 Korean Buddhist leaders and monks and nuns, as well as others from Bhutan and Vietnam, who joined their Taiwanese counterparts to learn how to swim in Taoyuan County and Pinglin, near Taipei.

The students also acquired skills in saving people from rapid streams, administering CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and the Heimlich maneuver, and bandaging and moving the wounded.

In support of the training session, the Buddha Light International Association arranged for all trainees and coaches to stay at a temple in Sanxia, New Taipei.

Buddhists believe that saving a life is more valuable than building a seven-story pagoda (to enshrine Buddha images). Many of the participants told this newspaper that after immersing themselves in an immense sea to learn how to save themselves and others, they better appreciated Buddha's compassionate hope to "save others in a sea of pain."

Lin Chen-tsai said that if the religious sector can save physical lives, it will be better able to give comfort and encouragement to people psychologically. (Sept. 18, 2011)

(By S.C. Chang)