« Thailand | Main | Pandas and the rain »


There is something about visiting holy places that doesn't set right with me. I keep trying to figure out why and only come up with too many reasons. Today I managed to visit a Wat (Thai Buddhist Temple), Wat Pho to be exact, which houses among other things a reclining buddha over 40 meters long. Considering that I grew up Buddhist I felt I should have experienced more reverence at this massive figure. Instead I felt embarrassed by the massive display of wealth that brought it about and wondered what on earth would inspire a ruler to do such a thing in a the name of Buddhism. Granted I haven't studied that hard but no where have I come across the part of Buddha's teachings where he instructs everyone with extra pocket money to hire architects and artisans to build glorious shrines.

But then I wonder, what would be a better way to spend the money? At least this way you have people doing what they love (I hope) and creating something beautiful for future generations. Sure a king could pay his servants and subjects better, make schools more available, or some sort of heath care, but by building shrines and stupas he is still infusing the money back into the local economy instead of keeping it locked up in his storehouse. So who am I to judge? I am sure among the masses of tourists who visit these places just because they can, are other people who come here to remember the Buddha's teachings, to reconnect with a spirit greater than their little ego (as Paulo Coelho calls it, "the soul of the world"). Just because it doesn't work for me doesn't mean the place has no intrinsic value.

And so I am back to square one. I know that when I enter a shrine, church, monastary, or mosque with out tons of tourists, with no one or just a small enclave of devotees I do feel reverence and perhaps even slightly refreshed. I also feel no need to see any more such things that day - very few people have the inclination to attend church more than once a day if even that. I guess I am one of those who enjoys the occasional touch of the divine but prefers to get on with life.

And so as long as I am around I will appreciate the architecture and the art but am not educated enough to do more than that, the real reason I persist in visiting these places despite the conflict it arouses in me is to see how this "soul of the world" is recognized in other places. I can only absorb so much of this at a time, so for now it will have to be no more than one holy site per day.

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)