Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Sometimes East Does Meet West

For me personally, one of the more interesting aspects of international business are the relationships one builds with one's business partners. Unlike many western business practices, Oriental cultures value relationship building and cultural exchange before-- or as part of actual business discussions. Of course, western business customs do often involve things like golf or dinner, but it is very different in Asia. 
Western business is very transactional--we like to "get down to business". Oriental cultures prefer to get to know someone over time, and are very focused on the long term nature of future business opportunities. When time permits, it may even include visits to local cultural customs. For example, my Korean colleagues brought me to a temple where they allowed visitors to ring the huge bell. It was really cool to experience that and hear the loud bell gong, buzz and reverberate.

Being a student of the world, I welcome such opportunities. During my business travels to Korea, for example, my business colleagues brought me to visit a temple, nestled high in a mountain.
In front of the temple area were hundreds of colorful paper lanterns hanging over a courtyard. I learned that each lantern had individual paper "prayer cards" inside a plastic sleeve, hanging from each lantern. Curious about this custom I approached the temple to learn more.
First, I was asked to drink the sacred mountain spring waters at the base of the temple entrance. I was a little hesitant but I set aside my usual sense of caution and gave myself permission to delve into the custom. Putting my faith in the Buddha, I drank the waters, which flowed from three dragon mouths, into a stone basin.  It was oddly peaceful, alone with nature.

I met with one of the monks, who explained the lanterns. He handed a special card to me, and asked me to write down my name and names of family members or anyone else for which I wanted him to pray. He then asked me to write down what I was seeking, for myself or for the names I wrote.

He read the card slowly, meditating for awhile. A woman directed me to the temple to pray. She explained that the card would be hung from one of the lanterns, and the monk would pray for my wishes for three years. Naturally, I was amazed by this.

Shortly after speaking with the monk the woman invited me to have lunch inside the temple. A vegetarian lunch was prepared, which was delicious. My business colleagues told me it was very unusual for a visitor or even a foreigner to be invited inside the temple for lunch with the monks. It felt special to me too, but I didn't question it. I never question why things happen, as I believe it is all in the divine order.

1 comment:

Jeni said...

Rick -This whole process looks to be really pleasant and very serene. Love the photos you took of the fountains and the building too. Beautiful!


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