Today I went into Manchester to have lunch with a dear friend. Such is the pace of life and its many demands that we don’t get together as often as we would like. With both of us being off work this week it was an ideal opportunity for a catch up.
I arrived in the city with a couple of hours to spare so I decided to head to one my favourite food places, Earth Cafe at the Buddhist Centre. It’s run as a separate business nowadays but still serves a delicious and healthy vegan menu.
It’s an informal cafe where the staff are always polite and accommodating if not exactly gregarious – though that can vary from one visit to the next. For me, it’s just so refreshing to not to have to enquire about any ingredients, and everything is fresh and tasty.
Manchester Buddhist Centre is within a repurposed former industrial building whose design legacy still remains, incorporated into the very different 21st century space.
In near solitude I quietly enjoyed my food for thought: coffee and walnut cake….
…..with only the laughing Buddha for company.
I pondered the changing face of this city where industry had been replaced by commerce and hospitality, including the very spot where I sat. What would the Mancunian industrial giants of a century ago make of all of this? Of how we can choose to live now. Of our choices about what we consume. About what we revere and how we find spiritual expression in the 21st century.
Manchester, one-time exporter of textiles to the world, now weaves philosophies from the east into the fabric of city life. No wonder the Buddha is laughing!
I still had nearly an hour until I was due to meet my friend so I decided to have a look around the Buddhist Centre ethical shop where there was a selection of statues, books and meditation accoutrements…
….and a comfortable and peaceful place to sit and read…
I chatted with one of the staff who told me that yesterday had been an important date: the anniversary of Buddha’s death. For the community, this commemoration had been the focus of a special meditation ceremony which took place at the main shrine. I was asked if I would like to take a look, and of course I happily accepted.
The larger of the Centre’s two shrines is a peaceful and airy space painted in an uplifting shade of sunflower yellow. Its focal point is a beautiful and unusual representation of the Buddha, of somewhat European appearance, including blue eyes.
Placed around the shrine were some photographs of loved ones who had died within the last 12 months, along with floral tributes, trinkets and treasured possessions. I haven’t included any photographs close up for obvious reasons.
A bowl of white flowers, still fresh and slightly fragrant, will remain in place until they fade and finally decay, at which point they will be removed; a reminder of the natural cycle of life and death.
Left to look around on my own, I sat for a while enjoying the peace before bidding the dead farewell and returning to rejoin the living and life in all its colour.