Saturday, 26 December 2009

broken-hearted buddha

hello, again, dear ardent readers. for those keeping track, i have been away for about a week, visiting the wonders of an historic siem riep, cambodia. what i thought would be an arduous and exhausting trip, turned out to be mildly tiring, if at all, considering it was a 3-day biking adventure, totaling about 120 km of dirt track, mountain roads and semi- to far-from-well paved tar streets.

for the low-down, you can visit the spiceroads cycling adventures website, and design your own adventure here, and i thoroughly recommend it as an outing for friends or as a family getaway.

i'm far too tired and slightly detached from my normally condescending mood (for which i expect many thanks) to detail the history of all that i saw; most of you know enough about the tonle sap lake, and angkor wat temple such that i need not elaborate, but i do want to point out that, apart from these two major attractions, i found the most beautiful setting for the many temples was for angkor thom, because it had been overrun with lush jungle and the blend of architecture meeting nature was something borne (and born) in fantasy and myth.

instead, i would like to tell you about a slightly peculiar encounter i had at the night market in siem riep - as i strolled down the alleys between rows of makeshift shops, waning in attention as the women of my family wile away the minutes (unerringly seeking thence-nerver-used trinkets and shiny baubles), i stumble across a quaint shop, specialising in the sales of figurines. there are many to its name, ranging from the hindu gods, mainly brahma, shiva and vishnu, to the many deities of folklore and religious mishmash, to the replicas of siddharta gautama. and as i pass, fleetingly my eye takes leave upon a particular figurine, that has in the place of its heart, a hollow, an emptiness where there should be none.

this is something new to me, as i have not encountered before, any reason for buddha's likeness to be represented with such absence, and i query the shop-keeper as to why this is so. in reply, i am told that, indeed, the normal depictions of buddha are whole, and justly this one should be as well. however, in the carving of this figurine, made of cheap timber, it was found that the raw piece of wood was damaged, probably due to insect or fungal infection. and hence, in product, it has come to be, my personal buddha with a hole where something was, symbolic of the yearning heart, and unbroken sheen of appearance, pretense to only a knowing of the resonant emptiness where a beating life should spring.

as per the shopkeeper, he would sell this to me for a 'cheap price' because it was, in paraphrasing his words, 'defective, broken and a mistake'. i only smile as i told him, buddha-san may be broken, but he is far from a mistake - he has passed a test of time, of himself, and to mend the abyss, all he needs is a little love.

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