Friday, January 28, 2011

Three Days On A Bike - Temples And Temple Art

Temples and Temple Art

Luckily there are the Temples. The country is awash with them, and the lives of the people are a circular rhythm, tuned to the lunar calendar, of blessings and rituals.

In the towns and cities saffron-robed monks walk like shadows of light.

The artwork on Temple walls is strikingly similar in theme to that on the walls of Catholic churches in Europe: Hotel California – this could be heaven or this could be hell.

Tortures for sinners are graphically detailed as demons cut off hands that reached in life for the sensual and the material. Flesh that strove for pleasure is lacerated by whips or torn by wild beasts. That great old classic, boiling oil, is used on the gluttonous.

Heaven is reserved for those who sat in wondrous rapture at the feet of the Buddha. They get to use long sticks to make fruits fall from trees or walk in placid ecstasy as loving couples in long-term monogamous relationships. A strict warning to all those frequenting the coloured lights of late-night beer gardens and the dull abused spirits of the girls within.

Baskets for sticky rice hang from the ceiling. There are mattresses and sound systems – the Temple is very much a living village space.

There are statues from every epoch. Reb Dovid was kind enough to tell me about ancient monolithic stones in certain Temples along the way. In every Temple there is a main hall and then, behind locked doors, a sanctum holding the most precious statues of the cult. An old monk will often come out and open the doors for you.

For some reason, the floors are often laid with bathroom tiles, giving the places an unpleasant edge, but other than that they are havens of peace and calm; welcome resting spots on the Road.

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