Tag Archives: Buddha

Here and Now

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I was immersed in Buddhism during the trip to Thailand. I am not a religious person, per se. I believe in a greater power, a light, not sure I go for the guy in a white robe, but to each his own. I can’t explain it, so I’m certainly not going to try to dispute it. I didn’t go in with much knowledge on Buddhism and I’ve only gained a tiny bit more in my travels. One of the things that perplexed me was that Buddhists pray. It was my belief that the enlightened path is a journey one must take on one’s own. So, what’s the point in praying to Buddha? Technically, he can’t help you. I would like to think that a Buddhist prayer is more substantial than ‘I want to win the lottery’. But, then, I would also like to think that of Catholics, Jews, Muslims, etc… Frequently not the case, however.

As I visited different wats, I was surprised at how many different ways there are to pray to Buddha. So much ritual, tradition. I was a little nervous at the first wat I entered. I certainly didn’t want to do anything ‘wrong’, offend anyone. I knew to take off my shoes and never point my feet toward an image of the Buddha. The basics, maybe, but important stuff. The next wat threw me, though. Wat Phan Tao, a small teak building was next on my self guided walking tour of the Old City, Chiang Mai. Immediately upon entering, a smiling, jolly man quickly approached me and handed me a bowl of coins. “for wishes.” He said, “you make wishes.” So confused. What do I do with the coins? Am I supposed to give him money for the coins? He just handed them to me, smiling and bounced away. Now what? I noticed the bowls all lined up and I got a flash of one of ‘The Amazing Race’ episodes. (!) A coin in each bowl…aaah, I get it! I did what was expected of me, but as I started dropping coins methodically into each bowl I couldn’t come up with something to wish for. It seemed so contradictory to what Buddhism was about to me. With each ‘plink, plink, plink’ of the coins in the bowls I was drawn deeper into the task… ‘plink, plink’, deeper into the moment, ‘plink’, into the present. There it is! So much of Buddhist prayer is meditation. It all made sense.  Wishes, prayers, affirmations, intentions, chants, whatever you want to call them, they are manifestations of present energy. What a wonderful lesson! It should be said, however, meditating over your scratch ticket does not guarantee a winner.

Namaste
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Can’t We All Just Get Along

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Recently, I have been frustrated in trying to get ‘my point’ across to someone. It seems that no matter how I phrase it, try to say it, it’s just not the way this person is receiving it. I’ve been complaining that he’s just stubborn and refuses to see things differently than what he wants to see and is only hearing what he wants to hear. I came across this parable as I was looking for ways to incorporate more of my recent travel to Thailand here. It screams Thailand with its elephant and Buddhism, but more importantly it has given me a new perspective to my issue.

THE BLIND MEN AND THE ELEPHANT

Based on a story from the Buddhist Sutra

The people who lived in a small village were always arguing and fighting among each other about God and different religions. They could never agree to a common answer. So they came to the Buddha to find out what exactly God looks like.

The Buddha asked his disciples to get a large magnificent elephant and six blind men. He then brought the blind to the elephant and asked them to describe what an elephant looks like.

The first blind man touched the elephant’s leg and reported that it “looked” like a tree trunk.
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The second blind man touched the elephant’s stomach and said that the elephant was a wall.

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The third blind man touched the elephant ear and said that it was a fan.
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The fourth blind man touched the elephant’s tail and described the elephant as a piece of rope.
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The fifth blind man felt the elephant’s tusks and described it as a spear.
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And the sixth blind man rubbed the elephant’s snout and got very scared because he thought it was a snake.
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All of them got into a big argument about the “appearance” of an elephant.

The Buddha asked the citizens: “Each blind man had touched the elephant but each of them gives a different description of the animal. Which answer is right?”

“All of them are right,” was the reply.

“Why? Because everyone can only see one part of the elephant. They are not able to see the whole animal. The same applies to God and to religions. No one will see Him completely.”

By this parable, Buddha taught that we should respect all other religions and their beliefs.

Credit to: http://www.spiritual-education.org/blindmenelephants.pdf for the story synopsis

Purity, Drugs, and Introspection

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Today was a looooong day, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I booked a trip up to Chiang Rai and it included a ton of different things. The highlights were; a stop at the White Temple, a boat ride on the Mekong River in the Golden Triangle, and a visit to a hill tribe village. I was excited to do them all.

The White Temple, Wat Rong Khun, is dream-like. The white color stands for Buddha’s purity and the mirrored glass represents Buddha’s wisdom. The bridge must be crossed to enter heaven. It’s truly spectacular!
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The Golden Triangle – I could feel the activity of forty years ago on the Mekong River. The place had a bad vibe. It’s not picturesque in any way. And I’m sure it doesn’t look much like it did during the height of the drug trade (one might think I have a fascination with poppies), but the mind fills in the blanks. Along the banks of the river now are a couple of casinos, one in Burma and one in Laos (it’s illegal to gamble in Thailand). The largest one has been dubbed ‘Laos Vegas’. Cute. We stopped at a touristy market area and wandered around a bit. Something I never knew existed in the flavored whiskey world; Cobra whiskey, Scorpion whiskey, Tiger whiskey, etc. Naturally, I had to try some… Not too much flavor, but you could definitely tell it was whiskey! Jack has more kick.
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The last stop was to visit a hill tribe. I had mixed feelings about this. The ‘featured’ tribe was the Karen Long Neck tribe, political refugees from Burma that fled and have been living in Thailand. This is the tribe where the woman add rings around their neck so their necks appear much longer than normal. The tribal village is set up for tourists. The woman have stalls where they sell various merchandise and the children know they are cute and head to the people with outstretched hands. It’s heartbreaking. This trip could be considered controversial. I’ve purposely not included photos from this portion. I have some on my camera, but took none with my phone for the blog. Why? Some view these people and the village as nothing more than a human zoo (see my opinion on zoos in the previous post). I can see how one may feel this way. However, there’s also the part of me that is genuinely curious about the lifestyle of this secluded culture. I’ve visited Taquile Island and have met the indigenous people of Uros, the floating islands of Lake Titicaca in Peru and felt the same conflict to a much less degree. Maybe because those people were not actively being persecuted by their home country. It’s a double edged sword because if the tribe does not seek help from outside sources (ie. tourists), then they would struggle even more than they already do. But are they freaks on display? I guess the answer lies within the visitor. Why are you here? To view the freaks? Or learn about a culture not your own. I choose the latter. But, will it get me over the bridge…