“When you separate yourself by belief, by nationality, by tradition, it breeds violence.
So a man who is seeking to eradicate violence does not belong to
any country, to any religion, to any political party or partial system;
he is concerned with the total understanding of mankind.”
I have a tricky relationship with religion. And politics. And organized belief systems of any sort.
Being part of a faith system for many years that happily tromped over the rights and worth of anyone who was not deemed acceptable has made me leery of anyone or anything claiming to know The Truth. I can’t fathom how it is possible for anyone to know The Truth. We can’t even fully understand ourselves or each other let alone our Deity (or lack thereof) of choice, so it’s baffling to me that any of us have the hide to say, “I know. I’m right and you are wrong.”
I do believe, however, that we have the incredible privilege of muddling along through life trying to figure it all out. And what a gift that is. To be able to go through life observing and reading and studying and experimenting and discussing and thinking as we find the beliefs that make sense to us and help us navigate this world in a braver and more loving way.
I think that’s a marvelous adventure.
Over the weekend my friend Sue took me to a Buddhist temple near her house. It is a stunningly beautiful place set in the middle of the bush, surrounded by trees and gardens and kangaroos nibbling on the grass.
I know next to nothing about Buddhism, so it was rather lovely to wander around without any preconceived notions to influence my experience.
The first thing that caught my attention was the color. Isn’t that orange marvelously vibrant and full of life? And such incredible workmanship in every detail, from roof lines and door lintels to pathways and gardens. So much love and work has gone into this place.
The second thing I noticed was the practice of removing shoes before entering the temple. I don’t know the reasoning behind this, but it delights me. How I would’ve loved going to church barefoot when I was a girl. As an adult I found that it instantly reminded me of my humanity, of my equal standing with all those around me, and I must say the cool marble underfoot felt wonderful on a hot day.
I really loved the courtyards and gardens that fill the temple and grounds. Their serenity gives me the same feeling I experience at the Japanese Gardens I visit regularly. Wandering the pathways was so calming and soothing, especially with the accompaniment of tinkling bells and incense wafting out from the temple.
Carefully clipped hedges were festooned with vivid orange berries and lush purple flowers, and the paths were carpeted with crunchy fallen leaves, the first harbingers of Autumn.
Tucked among the rosemary, flowering bushes, and pebbled pathways were statues of Buddha at various stages of his life. This one was so jolly and carefree I couldn’t help but smile.
I’ve always liked elephants, finding them such incredible examples of controlled strength. This beauty and his twin guarded the entrance to the temple, and I think he looks rather fetching in his flowered headband and the richly decorated blanket over his back.
Frangipanis (known as plumeria to my North American friends) never fail to delight me. They represent all that is wonderful about the tropics – beauty and warmth and heady scents on soft breezes.
We wandered through a more woodsy part of the garden and spotted this fellow who looked so lovely with a lion cub playfully licking his face.
Turns out he is the “man of cats” – a one time lion hunter who later converted to Buddhism. After he attained enlightenment, a tiny lion cub trotted up to him. Onlookers believed the cub was thanking the man for giving up the killing of lions which had spared the lives of his family. Since that moment, the man of cats and the lion cub were inseparable.
I think that’s beautiful. A gorgeous reminder that no matter what we’ve done in the past, we can become loving and kind people now.
It was a beautiful afternoon in a beautiful place, and we returned home with peaceful and full hearts. xo