Sutras, serenity and senior citizens

Updated: 2016-08-15 08:02

By Tang Yue in Suzhou(China Daily)

Sutras, serenity and senior citizens

Elderly residents, all lay Buddhists, chant scriptures from 5 pm to 6 pm every day.[Photo by Gao Erqiang/China Daily]

Although the number of religious nursing homes is relatively small, they provide religious seniors with much needed, and appropriate, space.

"There is no way I could go to an ordinary nursing home. The diet is different and the schedules are different - most important, the spiritual world is different. Here, we have all of those in common," said Cao Qiuming, an 84-year-old Lingyanshan resident.

She said that rather than visit their families during Chinese New Year and other national festivals, most of the residents choose to stay at the home: "Living here during the festivals is even better than usual, because at home, large families always gather to eat heavy food and everywhere is full of unwanted hustle and bustle."

Life in the nursing home echoes the schedule at the temple. Officially, every day starts at 5 am with the morning chant, which lasts for an hour, but many residents begin their own studies much earlier. There is a second chanting session after dinner, from 5 pm to 6 pm, and masters from the temple occasionally descend the hill to deliver lectures to the residents.

The diet is strictly vegan, although leeks, garlic and onions are also excluded because the pungent herbs are believed to be harmful to the central nervous system and as a natural aphrodisiac, garlic can disrupt vows of celibacy. Religious practice dictates that residents remain silent during mealtimes.

That serenity is what draws many residents. "Many Chinese people of our age are taking care of their grandchildren or watching a lot of TV at home. I don't like that. Here I just feel like I'm at a university. We study very hard and make progress every day," said Guan Yamin, a 73-year-old resident.