A group of Taiwanese monks and nuns, joined by a number of counterparts from South 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 monks or nuns swim because of a rule against “playing in water.”
Lin Chen-tsai (林呈財), chairperson of the Taiwan Wisdom Action Aspirant Water Life Saving -Association, which co-sponsored the three-day training session, said the Buddhist tenet 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 Taiwan Wisdom Action launched a “sangha members swimming session” last year, training more than 30 monks and nuns for two days in fresh and seawater.
Last year’s 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. More than 200 licensed volunteers and 100 coaches taught them how to swim and how to rescue people.
The training program attracted more than 10 South Korean Buddhist leaders, 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 District (坪林), New Taipei City (新北市).
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 Sansia (三峽), New Taipei City.
Many of the participants told reporters 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 said that if the religious sector can save physical lives, it will be better able to give comfort and encouragement to people psychologically.