We’ve climbed thru ancient ruins, hiked miles uphill to the top of ancient kingdoms and witnessed deeply beautiful worship at the feet of the most incredible ancient Buddha statues in the world.
I sat under the Bodhi Tree and went to the oldest Temples and talked with some of the most committed monks ever, falling in love over and over again with their presence and perspective on how to be lights in the world.
I’ve meditated in the mountains, chanted at the famous Temple of the Tooth and walked in an amazing parade honoring my dear monk friend for all his incredible work all over the world.
I’ve laughed so hard I thought I’d never be able to breath again.
I’ve been deeply moved.. and now searching for how to describe some of what I’ve been seeing and feeling.
The carvings, the giant stone Buddha’s that are seemingly everywhere on this ancient island, the religion and dogma and traditions of things.. the culture and rituals surrounding nearly everything here…. I’ve not been thinking too much about the truth or validity of all that.
Maybe its’ all true. Maybe not.
I don’t think truth really exists accept for when it feels right inside each one of us… and what draws me to the dhamma anyway is the Kalama Sutta, the quote from Buddha that makes me feel so at home in these teachings:
“Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.” ~ Kalama Sutta
The truth is, it’s this comment that’s allowed me to appreciate all the rest.
As our “pilgrimage” continued around the country, I’ve quietly laughed, over and over again when someone told me this king or that president built this or that.
Of course none of that is true.
I can’t imagine any king actually “built” anything physical.
As we sat in awe ( constantly ) , I wondered about the actual people who labored.
Who carried that stone?
Who chiseled the nose?
How did they scale that mountain?
What was the view from up there 2000 years ago?
What were they thinking, how honored did they feel and did they know they were leaving such an incredible legacy for generations?
What did they believe? Was this a sacred act for them, or simply work to feed their families?
I’m reading Stephen Batchelor’s book “Confession’s of a Buddhist Atheist” and he wrote the following, which describes exactly what I’ve been feeling:
“But as a culture and civilization, Buddhism consists of far more than inner experiences. It is known thru buildings, gardens, sculptures, paintings, calligraphy, poetry, and craftwork. It is present by each mark made by artists and artisans on rocks, clay votive tablets, and fragile palm leaves, primed canvases, hand-pressed paper wooden printing blocks, raked gravel, and paper lanterns. On my visit to monasteries, the polished furrows in the rock, worn into the mountain by centuries of passing feet, moved me far more than the shrines to which they led. Who were the men and women who made them? Who were the people who constructed the intricacy carved stone gateways at Sanchi, chipped out the black basalt temples at Ajanta, erected the giant Stupa cathedrals at Pagan, laid out the rock gardens at Ryoanji, or sculpted the standing Buddha’s at Bamiyan? We don’t know.
These forgotten people are my fellows. They are the silent ones on whose behalf I want to speak. I know nothing of their religious beliefs or spiritual attainments. Their understanding of the subtleties of Buddhist Doctrine is irrelevant. They left behind visible and tangible objects created by their own hands: dumb things that speak to me across the centuries in a language that no text can reproduce. Irrespective of what Buddhist icon a painted scroll may depict, it embodies the intelligence and imagination, the passion and care of its creator. I feel an affinity with the makers of these things. A Zen garden can say as much about what they Buddha taught as the most erudite treatise on emptiness”
This has been my experience about as perfectly as I could ever express.
I love it all, but I especially am blown out, overwhelmed and deeply moved by the people behind the scene, behind the words, underneath the stone, within the teachings, part of the beauty.
To me, it’s their essence, the worker among workers, that radiates thru all these generations.