Saturday, January 5, 2008

Attack of the 80 Foot Buddha

Yesterday I went to the Lama Temple, which the guidebooks say is the Buddhist temple you have to see when you're in Beijing. It's very much what you'd imagine of China, pagodas, Buddhas, incense, dragons, lions.

But again, lots of interesting details. There were five main worship halls, each with its own Buddha or multiple Buddhas. And in front of each of them you would find oranges, and sometimes water, sometimes other food or candy that people have left as offerings for the Buddha. (Given the size of his belly, not a bad idea. This is a man who knows how to enjoy a big supper.) And each of the Buddhas is smiling. Some have a little bit of the Mona Lisa thing going: are you or aren't you? Give it up. But some, like the laughing Buddha in the first chamber, smile broadly. And it's really quite something to view. It invites a certain equanimity and detachment. (My natural strong suits; in fact, I'm often mistaken for him.)

The really mind blowers, though, are in the last two halls. The second to last has a 40 foot bronze standing Buddha that looks down on you and smiles. It's in the room where the monks who live at the temple come to pray, and I can see why. I'm not sure that the photographs I took can really capture it, but there's something about that smile...

And then there's this, the last temple. It looks nice, right? Actually not too different from the others. Except, inside there's a Buddha that stands as high as the ceiling. 18 meters tall -- about 75 feet -- and 10 feet or so wide. And carved out of a single tree. Yes, indeed. Carved out of a single, clearly enormous tree. The statue itself is a little unusual relative to the others; it doesn't look down, but out, and it really is too big for the chamber it's in, so it has none of the placidity of the other four. No lounging around for this guy; if they don't get him a bigger crib in which to chill, he's about three seconds from tearing this sucker down. I'm guessing his size means something for the Lama Buddhist community; perhaps it represents the vastness of his spiritual Enlightenment. It's certainly not the warm, personable Buddha to be found in some of the other rooms.

So there you have it... the Lama Temple. Afterwards I took after the Chinese and took a stroll. It's been beautiful here at dusk.

1 comment:

Ken said...

Only now came across the blog... loving it, Seamus. I'm looking at it as an educational opportunity for Ryan and Katie--will tell Gabby about it.