John Mifsud shares the story of how he discovered himself on the toes of a golden Buddha in Thailand, the place a easy perception modified his perspective.
My curiosity in Buddhism started in school. I used to be raised in a struggling, immigrant household system. My childhood and adolescence have been rife with psychological sickness and tragic loss. After I left house at 17, I used to be sure that the struggling that had characterised my youth was over and resolved that the remainder of my life would give attention to pleasure. After I found that the essence of the Buddha’s teachings culminated with “the top of struggling,” I believed, ‘Signal me up!’
I used to be raised Catholic, however misplaced curiosity in highschool after I occurred upon a replica of Bertrand Russell’s Why I Am Not a Christian. As a homosexual man, I merely couldn’t bear the hypocrisy of a faith populated by many homosexual clergy, but callously homophobic. Nonetheless, prayer remained an essential a part of my life. Household life was continually traumatic, so I frequently sequestered myself in church for solitude earlier than I went house to the anticipated chaos. After lessons, the church was typically empty with nobody else round, so I’d kneel in pews to hope. Then and there, I turned intimate with silence.
For a few years, the sacred silence of empty church buildings consoled me as I endured their lack of tolerance. That is the resolve that introduced me to Thailand, kneeling on the toes of the gargantuan golden Buddha.
As an grownup, this contemplative apply expanded. Every time I felt triggered or harassed, I might discover a chapel and simply sit nonetheless. Finally, I instinctively began prostrating myself on the altar beneath the crucifixion. With my face on the granite ground, arms stretched above my head, I’d give up to an influence higher than myself, pleading for energy and steering. Somatic humility turned my ritual balm.
20 years after I first stepped on the Buddhist path, I landed in Thailand, a spot I had vowed to go to since I’d heard it by no means criminalized homosexuality and was largely considered LGBTQ+ pleasant. A tall golden Buddha graced the foyer at my lodge on Silom Highway, towering over a trickling pond with floating pink lotus and koi beneath. His palms have been positioned within the dharmachakra mudra, which represents transitions, motion, and circulate, and embodies the turning of the dharma wheel. Enshrined, this statue of Siddhartha appropriately watched over vacationers coming and going. Though I arrived near midnight, I booked a tour for the very subsequent morning. I fell asleep excited to get up and discover Ayutthaya, Thailandʼs former capital.
At 8:00 a.m the following morning, I sat jet-lagged but content material on a bus darting via city bazaars with spices and silks in each coloration. As we wove via Bangkok, historical and trendy temples appeared alongside saffron robes, alms bowls, and magenta bougainvillea. Small and huge stupas have been all over the place — sturdy, artistic indicators of built-in religious devotion. Our first cease was at a large gold Buddha standing 4 tales excessive. His toes have been as large as the youngsters laying white and lilac dendrobium at his toes. I seemed up and breathed deeply, fully enchanted.
After two hours of driving into the countryside, we arrived at Siam’s former Imperial Palace, burned to the bottom by Burmese armies in 1767. I wandered among the many surviving 15-foot Buddhas carved in stone, which had sat in silent smash for the reason that battle. An immense, conical stupa stood ornately embossed with hundreds of periwinkle and custard-colored ceramic flowers. Their darkish inexperienced leaves criss-crossed burgundy tiles in diagonals.
Climbing the 2 tales of more and more smaller steps to the highest, I discovered a seated, pink lacquer Buddha, the scale of a thimble. Incense ash and wilted chrysanthemums encircled him. I slowly realized I used to be surrounded by a wide ranging panorama. From this elevation, I might see 4 rows of Buddhas sitting in noble silence, some draped in orange organza. Sweeping mango timber have been ample, their laden branches nearly touching the bottom. At a distance, a big white temple beckoned me with its vivid pink roof and dazzling gilded gables.
In the end, perception arose so simple as the serenity on the large, gold Buddhaʼs face.
As I descended the stupa in Ayutthaya, I didn’t know what to anticipate as I approached the primary conventional Buddhist temple I’d visited in a Buddhist nation, however I felt open. A demure monk requested I depart my footwear outdoors the door of Phra Mongkhon Bophit. I took just a few steps into the sanctuary and all of the sudden felt the presence of one other colossal, forty-foot Buddha, gargantuan and shining, all in gold. Sitting lotus, his knees spanned your entire temple. He was ten occasions taller than the doorway. As my eyes took within the marvel, a way of overwhelm rose in my stomach, swelling up into my chest and throat. I wasn’t fairly certain what to take action I knelt at his toes as I had on the crucifix in church. My coronary heart pounded as I inhaled deeply for 4 counts, held for one more 4, and exhaled slowly for seven. After three of those breaths, leisure changed my anxiousness. My eyes stayed closed as sturdy feelings subsided within the tropical warmth. As a bead of sweat dribbled down my brow, a wave of readability washed over me just like the jasmine breeze that adopted me into the sanctuary.
I used to be born in Malta and determine as an Arab-American. Rising up, I prayed to Jesus, his palms and toes brutally nailed to a cross and his iconic, tortured face dripping blood from a crown of thorns. Worshiping this picture of divine struggling and gore invoked each awe and concern, guilt and disgrace. Though Jesus is also known as the Prince of Peace, the numerous wars waged in his identify illustrate an atrocious historical past that scars the face of human decency. And but, for a few years, the sacred silence of empty church buildings consoled me as I endured their lack of tolerance. At the same time as a younger man, I refused to be demonized. That is the resolve that introduced me to Thailand, kneeling on the toes of the gargantuan golden Buddha. Lastly composed, my knees started to ache. I opened my eyes and seemed up.
In the end, perception arose so simple as the serenity on the large, gold Buddhaʼs face. As I gazed up on the Buddha, I believed to myself, “Oh, look! Heʼs smiling.” I discovered myself smiling again after which and there I made a vow: “Iʼm switching!”
I returned house to Seattle realizing I ought to begin meditating however didn’t put my inclination into apply. Two years later, the worldwide shock of 9/11 triggered historic, household trauma — I knew there was no time to waste. There by no means is. A pal invited me to dinner, however then known as to postpone as a result of she wished to go to a neighborhood meditation earlier than our meal. I pleaded along with her, “Please, please — can I am going with you?”