22 July 2020

I listened to a sermon at Buduruwagala

A little over six kilometers southeast of Wellawaya there rises from earth and foliage the tallest rock-hewn Buddha statue in the island. Buduruwagala, literally ‘rock upon which is (carved) the image of the Buddha,’ dates back to the 9th or 10th century with the attendent bodhisattva images indicating allegiance to the Mahayana tradition.

Coming upon it is an experience that’s hard to describe, but Kishanie S Fernando has done a beautiful job of it a few years ago:

‘In the fast fading twilight, amongst the last songs of the birds, seven figures stood silent and still – in deep meditation. It seemed not to make a difference to them whether it was dark or light morning or night, sun or rain. For a minute your imagination tells you that they may now relax, shift a leg or hand or turn their heads. Yet for a thousand years and more they had not moved. From the auspicious day they were released from the living rock by a long forgotten unnamed craftsman.’

They’ve remained still, but they have certainly moved each and every person who gazed upon them, either at twilight or at dawn. Tharindu Amunugama whose photography tells stories and who ‘captured’ Buduruwagala in part and whole, in the play of light and shade, in angles and juxtaposition confessed -- ‘[the photographs] don’t do justice to what I see.’  

Kishanie’s description reminded me of a legend associated with the Aukana Buddha statue, which stands 9 feet shorter at 42 feet, is dated to the reign of King Dhatusean in the 5th Century, shares the same Samabhanga or ‘unbending’ posture and display the same Abhaya mudra, representing protection, peace, benevolence and the dispelling of fear.

Coming upon the rock one day while traveling with the Royal Sculptor, the king is said to have asked a simple question: ‘Do you see the Buddha?’ And the sculptor answered in the affirmative. And so, the ‘Aukana Buddha Statue’ came to be ‘released from the rock.’

Buddha. The word has many meanings, among which is ‘enlightened.’ Buddhatva, then, would refer to the condition of enlightenment, of knowing. The relevant knowledge is not beyond sight and secure. It can be resident in rock, flower, gaze, word, conversation or silence. It could be in black and white or a myriad of colors. It could be resident in a single color, in texture, in a cloud formation, a corpse, a baby’s smile or a tear shed on account of love that’s gone forever.

In this case, it’s about representation. And in gazing upon the image, we could move from wonderment to sobriety, from rock to the release from rock and back to a blank rock-face untouched by sculptor or gaze.

And so, we demonstrate gratitude or express resolve to abide by pathways recommended. I lit a lamp, honoring in silence the Fully-Awakened, the Light of the Triple World who dispels the gloom of ignorance. I found a flower in a kema which was amenable to an offering: පූජෙමි බුද්ධං කුසුමෙන නෙන…(poojemi buddhang kusumena nena…or ‘this flower I offer to the Buddha’).  

The flower will wilt and in wilting teach the timeless story of impermanence. The statue will hopefully recede into rock and in doing so release a salience of one kind or another that illuminates the eternal verities which, all things considered, are what count the most.

There was silence when I first saw 'Buduruwagala.' It was silent when I left. Much was said between silences and in silence.

Other articles in the series 'In Passing...':  [published in the 'Daily News']   
Eyes that watch the world and cannot be forgotten 
 Let's start with the credits, shall we? 
The 'We' that 'I' forgot 
'Duwapang Askey,' screamed a legend, almost 40 years ago
Dances with daughters
Reflections on shameless writing
Is the old house still standing?
 Magic doesn't make its way into the classifieds

Small is beautiful and is a consolation  
Distance is a product of the will
Akalanka Athukorala, at 13+ already a hurricane hunter
Did the mountain move, and if so why?
Ever been out of Colombo?
Anya Raux educated me about Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA)
Wicky's Story You can always go to GOAT Mountain
Let's learn the art of embracing damage
Kandy Lake is lined with poetry
There's never a 'right moment' for love
A love note to an unknown address in Los Angeles
A dusk song for Rasika Jayakody
How about creating some history?
How far away are the faraway places?
There ARE good people!
Re-placing people in the story of schooldays  

When we stop, we can begin to learn
Routine and pattern can checkmate poetry

Janani Amanda Umandi threw a b'day party for her father 
Sriyani and her serendipity shop
Forget constellations and the names of oceans
Where's your 'One, Galle Face'?
Maps as wrapping paper, roads as ribbons
Yasaratne, the gentle giant of Divulgane  
Katharagama and Athara Maga
Victories are made by assists
Lost and found between weaver and weave
The Dhammapada and word-intricacies
S.A. Dissanayake taught children to walk in the clouds
White is a color we forget too often  
The most beautiful road is yet to meet a cartographer



Podinilame Dissanayake said...

"....Buddhatva, then, would refer to the condition of enlightenment, of knowing. The relevant knowledge is not beyond sight and secure. It can be resident in rock, flower, gaze, word, conversation or silence..."