Home > Vietnam > Perfume river – crash course in Buddhism.

Perfume river – crash course in Buddhism.

February 16, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

Our day trip with Mr Happy was both a feast for the eyes and the ears with a philosophical lesson in happiness and Buddhism. His real name Hy, he was a philosophy student who packed in his studies in his final year, because he had enough thinking time to realise there was no career in philosophy.




another smitten student lapping up the story about the lotus gowing too fast and drowning in the water - a moral for humanity.

Probably the right decision because he was a brilliant tour guide. His insights and anecdotes were a pleasure and it was an intensive education that was hard to completely remember, but some of the standout stories were:.

Happiness , or having a happy life, comes from:

  1. Learning to be happy with what you have got, not always yearning for more.
  2. Giving from the heart, the pleasure of giving itself making you happy. He explained that the monks go around with alms bowls, not because they need the money, but because they provide you an opportunity to give, so they are giving you the opportunity to be happy, which is why you thank them and they don’t show any gratitude.

He then went onto a series of stories and parables, based on 3 essential human characteristics that apparently we all have: our desire to collect things and amass more and more, our inherent laziness, and our inquisitive nature. The best story was about why man can live for 90 years and it goes something like:

At the beginning, god was giving out life, and the hard working water buffalo climbed to heaven and being the first there, god gave him 100 years as a reward. The monkey, an unhappy lonely creature, goes next and receives 40 years, whilst the lazy man with few responsibilities, gets there last, but god only has 20 years to give out. Luckily for man, these are good years, free from responsibility and happy, but man is not happy and always yearns for more.

A few years later and the buffalo is working himself to the bone, and he climbs up to god to complain about why is it that he has to work so hard for 100 years. Being inquisitive, man decides to follow the buffalo and watches God thinks and decides to cut away half the buffalo’s life, leaving the buffalo with 50, and seeing the life come free, the man grabs the 50 years for himself. Man after all loves to collect things.

The monkey is also unhappy with his lot, lonely and isolated – and for 40 years – so he decides to complain and again the man follows to see what is going on. God listens and cuts the monkeys life in half, and again, the man who likes to collect  things, grabs the 20 years for himself.

Finally man has got what he wants – to live for 90 years, but not is all as it seems, because after his 20 years  of worry free fun as a child, he then has 50 years of hard work as an adult, and finally 20 years of solitude, isolation and fits of anger as an old git. Happy story all round!

perfume river was stunning - even with the poor weather

preparing the food in the engine room - nasty.

but we were still happy to eat it - check out the rice eating with chopsticks!

the austin used by the monk before he burned himself to death, pagoda's and emporers tombs - all part of the day on the river.

One of the tombs high up in the mountains. By this stage Theo had given up.

Theo resting - appropriately in one of the tombs!

As well as the philosophy lesson, the trip itself was an intensive barrage of sights and sounds, with pagodas, temples and tombs in fast succession; the filling in the more languid river cruise sandwich. Gluttons for punishment, the next day we made our own tour exploring the likes of the royal arena (where elephants fought declawed lions as recently as 1904), more pagoda’s, and working  monasteries full of monks and incense. Being away from the tours meant we could also enjoy all these things to ourselves.

Hue has a huge amount to offer, but it also showed the more negative aspects to Vietnamese culture – the constant aggressive hassle from hawkers really spoils things quite a bit – if they could take a few tips from the Thai’s and chill out, the country could be perfect.

Categories: Vietnam Tags: , , , , , ,
  1. Joe & Verna
    February 25, 2012 at 7:46 pm

    How many “genuine copies” of artifacts & watches have we got in the backpack now?

    • February 27, 2012 at 12:23 am

      Hi Joe,
      I have to report, that we have been very self-controlled and that so far, no “genuine” items have been purchased. (We have not finished travelling yet!!!) We are pretty short of luggage space, so the things we do buy usually get posted within a week or so, especially the heavy stuff like the demons!
      Take care, love to Verna,

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