I don't know who this man is or why he's posing for my picture

I don’t know who this man is or why he’s posing for my picture

One of the busiest, noisiest spots in the city has to be the Manhattan side of the Manhattan Bridge, where there are queues of traffic and plumes of delicious pollution. But bizarrely, it’s also the location of one of NYC’s serenest places: a Chinese Buddhist temple.

The temple sits on the corner of Bowery and Canal Streets and marks a bold entrance to Chinatown. You step inside to be greeted by these guys…P1120364 P1120363

But just a few steps further and you reach the main room – and a somewhat larger Buddha.P1120358 P1120357 P1120359

There were also two memorial corners filled with pictures of people who were part of the community (no photos out of respect, obv) and the walls in the main room were lined with the story of the Buddhist faith.P1120361

P1120360A kind-faced lady (who didn’t even work there) stopped to give me a quick intro. She explained that this was a Mahayana temple (one of the two main branches of Buddhism) and that adherents sought to avoid feelings of selfishness, hatred, anger, jealousy and grudges. She explained that you could come and reflect any time you wished, as well as attend weekly chanting services, where people – both regulars and any members of the public – gather to seek a better life and a better afterlife.

After about ten minutes, the lights switched off and I was asked to leave (so much for its 6pm closing time) so I didn’t get as much of a browse as I’d have liked. I thought the place was amazingly vibrant but I was a little overwhelmed because of my lack of knowledge and language for the faith. Plus, this is Chinatown so most signs were in Chinese, which disorientated me further.

But rather than put me off, the experience made me want to learn more and get a better grasp of the basics. In fact, I’d really like to head back – either to this temple or another – for a service some time, just to see what it’s like.

But tonight, it was only a short visit – and I was forced to face those beeping horns and angsty New Yorkers sooner than I’d have liked…P1120366