Tag Archives: Buddhism

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

Chimes And Chants

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Today I planned a Wat walking tour for myself. The old city of Chiang Mai is only 3sqkm so this wasn’t going to be a big endeavor, but the little streets that weave in and out can be confusing and play with my internal GPS. Armed with my guidebooks and Google maps I took to the streets. I hit the major wats; Wat Chiang Man, Wat Pan Tao, Wat Chedi Luang, and Wat Phra Singh, as well as a few lesser in between.

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It seems no matter where I travel there’s always something that requires notes; referencing where I was, what that’s a picture of, why I took it… It’s usually churches. In Ireland it was dolmans, standing stones, etc. In Egypt it was pyramids. No matter, If I don’t make notes… clueless later on. There are a LOT of wats in Chiang Mai’s old city. Not knowing the intricacies of Buddhism there doesn’t seem to be sweeping differences from one to the next, but then, I’m sure they say that about churches.

I decided to end the day with the piece de resistance, Wat Prathat Doi Suthep. The most revered wat in Chiang Mai and for most Thais. The 309 step climb is supposed to meditative. I was certainly concentrating. The complex is massive and uber-ornate compared to the others. I am snapping photos at every turn. There must be thousands of Buddha statues in just the main prayer area alone.

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The sky is darkening and it makes for some very moody shots. Cool. I can hear the low rumble of thunder off in the distance and it adds to the scene as I watch those praying light their candles, bow their heads, offer their flower.

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The rumbles grow louder. No doubt there’s a storm coming this way. There is just something about mixing an intense thunderstorm with religion that makes the experience a bit more fatalistic. Maybe I’m being dramatic, but Doi Suthep is on a mountain. Almost the highest point in Chiang Mai city. The rain is just starting. The lightning brightens the evening sky and a heart stopping crack of thunder inspires a shout as if my team just scored. Thunderstorms wind me up. A quick inventory of my wits and I remember that I am surrounded by metal spires, domes, and statues. It’s time to descend.