The Golden Buddha

So I asked the Golden Buddha…

A few years ago I took a vacation to Thailand.

On a map, Thailand is on the other side of the world. In my experience it was a completely different planet. We spent our days riding elephants, sweeping through crowded canals on longboats, touring the countryside, and visiting glittering temples.

In Thailand, the temples are both religious and spiritual. The Thai people cherish their monks, their sacred rituals, and their artifacts without the separateness we seem to feel about our church. It seemed they were not praying to their god, they were praying with Buddha, their friend and guide.

We had the privilege of visiting the palace of the Golden Buddha. This is a high holy place and all Thai people are expected to visit this place once in their lifetime. The reverence and the ritual were shared by everyone.

At the palace of the Golden Buddha, a small donation bought us a few small flakes of what looked like golden paper. After a prayer and a ritual, we pressed the flakes into the statue of our choice, adding our gold, perhaps a piece of our light to untold layers already on the sculpture. They looked like gleaming scales. I pressed mine on the smiling lips of a dancing Buddha. At the completion of the ritual, we were allowed to ask a question.

I can’t claim to be a big believer in the mystical. Although I could feel the beauty, the history, and the raw power pressing against my shallow beliefs, I didn’t expect anything inexplicable to occur. I would ask the question that had been burning inside me, but would not expect the answer to appear emblazoned in fire across the sky.

I knelt…
My mind cleared and quieted…
A calm descended on me…
I heard my breathing, felt my heartbeat, everything seemed to go silent…
I whispered my question. My life had been thrown into turmoil with a change in both relationship and career. I felt like a kite with a broken string or a surfer being tumbled in the waves. I needed to know, “Where is my path?”

After a silent moment, it was time to move on. I stood, refreshed but perhaps a bit disappointed. I felt quiet, cleansed, and whole. Everything around me looked clearer, brighter, and I felt somehow connected to the people and things nearby. I looked for a sign that would answer my question and tell me where my path was. In a moment I found one. It said “Exit.” I left.

It wasn’t until later that night that the answer came. I was in the middle of washing my hands when it rang inside my head like a bell in a tunnel. It was sudden, crisp, and clear. Even though the voice I heard was my own, it didn’t feel like mine. Indeed, it was my answer, but it came with the ironic smirk that I had seen on the face of the Buddha.

The voice said simply, “You’re on it.”

© 2004 Mark C. Robinson. All rights reserved