Beneath the Buddha

Kneeling in an empty room, letting the shining glow of a golden Buddha warm me, I feel as close to content as I can remember. It’s not that when I think about myself and my future I see it positively, but rather I don’t feel a need to think about it at all. 

It makes sense to me, sitting in that room, as to why bhuddism remains so alluring even to us atheists, us stompy little soldiers reluctantly freed from the troubles of faith. There’s something in the statues eyes, in the way they aren’t looking down at me but rather down at himself, as though thinking. It tells me this is for the now, for the me sitting here today, not some historical remanent of when religion was a booming, all powerful business. Unlike so many churches and monasteries I’ve been in, the architecture still feels poignant today, as a welcome break from the busy, furious stampede of every day life if nothing else.

The colours in this room are deep, and the blacks are truly that. The gold decor and statue appear almost as a campfire, illuminating this place, even in the middle of the day. It’s beautiful, an illusion of darkness at once created and shattered with a central, glimmering symbol.

This intelligence in design can be felt all over Kyoto’s temples. The way the gardens take your breath away no matter the season or weather, the way the exteriors are impressive yet rarely as grand as they might be… It’s an understanding of space and location that allows for the creation of brilliant illusions, illusions that aren’t really isllusions at all because a trick isn’t being played. The mountains aren’t a part of the garden, I know that, and yet they seem so close, so perfectly entwined with the trees and rocks and gentle, rippling water… The same holds true of that room, where I sit, watching the statue light up the room. This place isn’t dark, and I’m not alone, dozens of tourists stroll the path not two meters away. But it feels dark, and it feels like I’m alone.

After a few moments I feel I’ve soaked up enough borrowed faith for now, and I stand, ready to leave. Something catches my ear, though. A faint, dreamy chanting… I shake my head and sigh with resignation, realising that I’m definetly going to miss the train I planned to catch. But you can’t say no to a white rabbit, and mysterious, maybe imagined chanting is the whitest rabbit I’ve seen in a good long while.

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