Sunday, November 10, 2013

sunday grace: big buddha

while i was at creative joy in breathtaking upstate new york a few weeks ago, i wandered away from the monastery at garrison on a whim to visit another monastery a few miles away:  the chuang yen buddhist monastery, home of the largest buddha in the western hemisphere.  (for size perspective, see tiny live human head in bottom right corner.)

i went to see the big buddha and he is awesome.  but i discovered so much more about the buddhist traditions.

on the walls surrounding the building, there are a thousand tiny buddhas, each with his own golden light and a label printed in chinese.  i couldn't find an english-speaking person to explain it to me, so i just enjoyed the light show.  i imagined they are akin to lighting candles in a catholic church:  sweet little prayers for loved ones.  i have a thing for prayers that glow.

the base of the big buddha is encircled with beautiful boddhisattvas.  the hands of each form different mudras.  (it's true, i am all about the hands and the feet.)

ten thousand peaceful buddhas are sitting en masse to create the illusion of giant white lotus petals.

the center is a school and there is a small library of literature to browse or take home.

the grounds are spectacular.  i sat outside on a bench while troupes of (softly) laughing children played.  i watched a tour bus tai chi lesson as i sipped hot jasmine tea in the crisp autumn air.  i whispered a note of gratitude that there are tour buses that bring americans to places other than outlet malls and off-track betting.

there are countless buddhas on the grounds as well.

up the hill from the main campus, there is the beautiful and peaceful thousand lotus memorial terrace, where ashes of loved ones are placed.  pots of burning incense are at every turn, as are children and families honoring their deceased parents and elders.

on the second terrace a young man stood in a deep bow for what seemed like an hour before the urn of a loved one.  at his feet were a few white boxes of take-out and two sets of chopsticks, one set for his respected elder. what a lovely tradition, to bring a favorite meal to share.  it was so touching and tender.  i sensed lightness and joy from all the families who were present.

i will never forget this sacred place.