It’s not really fair. Buddha, above, has an advantage in the meditation game: he’s a statue.
I’ve tried it. I’ve tried finding a still, small, quiet space in the world to sit still, quietly, and make myself small in the grand scheme of the world. I’ve tried praying, meditating, contemplating, but I have a great deal of difficulty. I can’t shut off me. If I were concrete, if I had been formed somewhere by an artisan or a concrete mold and there were no thoughts going on inside my head, I might be better at sitting still and finding a quiet place to think about life, about the things that really matter.
Either way, Buddha always has the advantage.
There are hundreds of Buddhas at Borobudur. It was hard to focus on just one, but this one, fully intact in his niche, seemed like he wanted some attention. Although, technically, Buddha didn’t seek attention, only enlightenment.
There is a story going on here, and it extends around the entire temple at Borobudur. What is most fascinating is that the reliefs shown above are incredibly well rendered and seem to include characters from global cultures. There are Europeans, Classical Greeks, Chinese, African, and Indonesian characters, all carved into rocks that are well over one thousand years old. They all reflect the story of Buddha, his birth, life, and transcendence.
We hired a guide to take us up the Borobudur temple. He give us some interesting insights, along with some local folklore and some personal interpretations. The reason I titled this post “almost enlightened” is because of some information he shared when we got to the top of the temple.
I asked, “Why are these stupas (bell structures that house statues of Buddha) fitted with blocks that create a diamond shape, when the stupas on the last level, the top level, make square shapes?”
“The architect wanted to show how a person may be enlightened, but still not be entirely stable. The diamond shape can be tipped on its side, whereas the square is stable. Nothing can move it on its side, nothing can upend it,” was his reply.
Because we are still human, even though we may achieve enlightenment, we may still be upended, knocked over. I think there’s a good lesson in that.
We did not go to the Buddhist Temple this summer and I kind of miss these guys. The face above belongs to one of many statues depicting the “Lohans” of Buddhism. My kids love going to the temple and it’s a cool way to experience a culture outside our own. But there are lessons to be learned in a temple that go far beyond culture.
A couple of summers ago, when we took the kids to the temple in Steveston, BC for the first time, my son was doing his best to exercise self-control. He walked instead of running. He spoke quietly instead of excitedly shouting. He kept his hands behind his back. To this day, when I need him to exercise that same restraint, I say to him: “Ben. Buddhist Temple.” And that’s all he needs. Buddhist Temple.
Oh, and this week’s photo challenge is “Faces“.