Arrival in Zhangye at 5:00 PM. A tight ship. Early plans for tomorrow. 5:15 in the guesthouse. The temple with a promising Buddha closes at six. Dump the packs. “Let’s go.” “But dad I gotta pee.” “Hustle” “Can’t we relax?” “The Buddha calls.” “It’s close, we can walk.” 5:30 where the hell is it? The maps insane. Flag a taxi. Much, much further. The map was insanely optimistic. 5:45, the front gate. $.80 to the driver. Tickets into the temple. I tell Fumiko to bend her knees. Anyone under 1.40m is half price. The ticket lady looks at the clock. My smile that of a supplicant. Her fingers move to separate perforation. Were in.
We enter the weathered wooden hall. The chanting stills us. Hundreds of brown robed pilgrims follow the lead monks cadence. Their yellow umbrellas inexplicable. What light there is seems aged. We lean against an incensed pillar, it’s surface slippery with the oil of generations. We wait for the Buddha in the immeasurable piousness.
Slowly he makes his way to our adjusting eyes. “Da bigger da Buddha da better” goes the old saying. No argument. This Buddha is much better. Stretched out on its side. Like your favorite position for watching TV on the couch. Not sitting like your conventional Buddha. This Buddha has been comfortable for centuries. And at over 100 feet long it is bigger. A swastika adorns it’s chest. Not Adolf’s stolen aberration, but a reverse wheel of life. The eyelids seamed to limit the release of light. The hair blue indicating the highest levels of enlightenment. It’s belly hollow, which allowed neighborhood kids to play inside up until 50 years ago.
I decide I like religions that turn their Gods into playgrounds. I decide I like really big Gods. But most of all I decide I like being in the presence of believers when the conversation with their God seems two ways. Even if we have to rush to hear it.
(Aug 5, 2015)