Sunday, 23 January 2011

The Mysteries of Buddhism

Walking the familiar path back to school at 7.30am in mid January, the air is cold, the light is dull and there are even some small flakes of snow falling from above. It’s in stark contrast to the blazing sun that Jules and I felt as we walked the streets of Adelaide over the New Year period. As I make my way up the hill, breathing steam as I go, I can smell the familiar aroma of incense drifting across from the Buddhist cemetery that I pass everyday. This is a regular occurrence and can happen at any hour as well wishers pay their respects, not with flowers, but with the burning of incense sticks. As I pass the entrance and take a glance, there is no-one to be seen, only the serene outlines of the various Buddha figures that overlook the area. These figures are usually made of granite and come in a range of sizes and forms. What we particularly find amusing is that these figures are often adorned with brightly coloured clothing. Little hats, neckerchiefs, and cloaks are often lovingly made and placed on the figures as if to help them stave off the cold. This was particularly evident recently when we visited the Shitennoji markets, which are held in the grounds of a local Buddhist temple. There, hundreds of little figures (standing no taller than 30cm high) stand as silent sentinels at the entrance looking beautifully attired in a myriad of tiny little outfits. Not being experts on the Buddhist faith, Jules and I remain slightly perplexed by what this all means. This is just one small facet of a religion that increasingly fascinates us both. Even for an outsider looking in, there appears to be an understated calmness that is in stark contrast to the modern metropolitan world. Temples appear in the most unlikely of places and it is not unusual to see a brief cased office worker taking a quiet moment to pay his respects by burning incense and striking the distinctive sounding bell. Recently Jules was advised to buy a ‘temple book’, in which for a small fee, monks will write words of wisdom in beautiful Japanese calligraphic script. This conveniently gives us an excuse to visit more temples to learn a little more about this mysterious and somewhat cryptic religion.

1 comment:

  1. Loved reading this. The clothes the worshippers put on the buddhas reminded me of the Mannekin Pis statue in Brussels -- but it would be sacrilege to put a diver's suit on a buddha! (which is what we last saw the Brussels statue wearing!) Is there a book giving the meaning of the different poses held by the buddhas? All good wishes, Peter B.