Taking a Hike and Learning Dharma Along the Way
Every weekend we try to explore the beautiful Monterey Peninsula. We were looking for a new hike, so I searched AllTrails.com and found a very unique one. Less than ten miles northeast of Santa Cruz, California, is Land of the Medicine Buddha.
Land of the Medicine Buddha officially opened in 1991 as a Dharma center. I definitely am not an expert on Indian religions. However, I learned quite a bit about Dharma and Buddhist teachings during our hike. I’m not ready to convert, but it was enlightening.
Land of the Medicine Buddha is a 108 acre privately owned multi-purpose facility. It has fully equipped yurts and a lodge with guest rooms (pets welcome) and a dining hall (sorry, vegetarian only) for people who want to stay the night or weekend. There is even the Lotus Spa that offers massages, a spring-filled swimming, sunning, and an outdoor sauna. In keeping with the teachings of Buddhism with a simpler way of life, the accommodations do not have internet, phone, television, or even a clock so guests can truly relax and find quiet reflection time. It is free to all who come in peace. We left a 5-dollar donation as a thank you for the wonderful experience.
There also is a meditation room, bookstore, and meeting hall. We especially were impressed with the enormous prayer wheel, which we learned you should only spin clockwise.
We came for the hike, so after looking around we headed up to the trails. We took a short detour first to the Wishing Temple. This magnificent authentic Buddhist temple was open to the public. Inside was a 20 foot golden Buddha surrounded by offerings and lit candles. We respectfully walked around the temple admiring the artistry. Elijah has studied a little of Buddhism so was able to explain some of things we saw. After our brief cultural lesson, we started hiking.
The first trail is a short and easy 2-mile loop called the Eight Verses Pilgrimage Loop. Along the well-groomed trail are benches for quiet contemplation and signs with Buddhist verses that offer inspiration and promote peace and harmony. We stopped and read each one to get a lesson in Dharma teachings. The owners also are building a 50-foot tall stupa, which we learned is a type of Buddhist shrine.
The second trail is a longer 6-mile hike along a bubbling creek and through a serene redwood filled valley. As we walked, we unexpectedly came across shrines, prayer flags, statues and other Buddhist relics. Amazingly, nothing appeared to have ever disturbed them. I was very glad to see that people came and respected the area.
Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed our time in the Land of the Medicine Buddha. We would highly recommend this place for anyone seeking to get away from the stress and chaos of modern life. Maybe a little of Dharma rubbed off on me after all.