Almost a two-hour drive away from Grande Vitória, the main metropolitan region in Espírito Santo, there is a peaceful and natural place different from what you see most of the time in this area. It is a zen monastery, called Mosteiro Zen Morro da Vargem.
This is the first Buddhist monastery in Latin America, founded in 1974 in a place where a natural forest had been destroyed. The monks decided to create a monastery to bring back the natural beauty of that place and to unite Soto Zen Buddhism with the beauties of Brazil. They also helped the locals in need.
But not only locals visit it: many tourists from different cities in the state, such as Vila Velha and Guarapari, or even from different states of Brazil, like Minas Gerais, come to the monastery looking for brief moments of peace and connection with themselves and with nature.
I personally decided to take a camera with me, and I could not stop taking pictures, as the colors of the Buddhist monuments are so vibrant and create a fantastic contrast with the plants, the flowers, and the blue sky.
Since the monks wanted to help the locals (and they are so disciplined, right?), they set up many activities to share a little bit of their lifestyle with different institutions.
They promoted training programs for police officers, based on the best practices of Japanese police, stimulating their concentration, self-knowledge, ethics, and environmental consciousness. As a Brazilian, I can say that I would like this training to be given to all police officers in Brazil.
Also, in Mosteiro Zen Morro da Vargem, teachers are trained to work with environmental issues in classrooms, and students visit it on a daily basis. At the same time, monk monitors share their practices and experiences, give lectures, and take them along the ecological trails of the reserve.
Since Mosteiro Zen Morro da Vargem is so focused on promoting activities for the community in the small state of Espírito Santo, tourism is not their priority. In fact, the visiting time slots are short.
One can only enter the monastery from 8 to 10 am on Sundays but is allowed to stay in until noon. There is no need to book your visit unless you are coming with a group of 10 people or more. So, as long as you get there at the right time, you are welcome to enjoy it with no rush.
The prices range from R$5 for kids to R$10 for adults, which means 1 to 2€, at most. And the best is that if you like photography, you can take great pictures. I recommend you dress comfortably, with fresh and light clothes, so you can walk and take some breaks, sit on the grass and the rocks.
Even though you do not see many monks around (at least I did not), the temples are really beautiful! They perfectly integrate with nature and, by taking a glance at the trees and vegetation, you can see they are treated with respect and care.
I personally enjoyed sitting on rocks, meditating, and taking deep breaths while looking around. By that time, I had never been to a Buddhist monastery before, so it was different from everything I had ever done. I would say it is undoubtedly a different experience compared to going to the beaches in Espírito Santo, which I was until then used to!
Take a good camera with you and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere at the Mosteiro Zen Morro da Vargem, the first Buddhist monastery in Latin America. After a while, when you look back to the pictures, you will be thankful you have visited this sacred place!
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