On Temples, Tourists & Stillness
“The quieter you become, the more you can hear. Ram Dass”
The back story – first day in India, on our way to Dharamsala and one of the spiritual places that has been pulling me for a while. So this isn’t w rock post. This is a ‘me’ post, part of my search for that ‘something’. Maybe it is enlightenment, maybe not. Maybe I will find it in the home of the Dalai Lama, maybe all I will find is myself.
The temple is marvelous, intricate detailed carvings of Hindu deities ranging from hand sized to person sized, all in marble, towering above us into domes of intricate pattern. All a teaser for the main shrine, how to language a place that was just unlike any I have ever seen (and my Mom took me in the U.K. Cathedral tour). I was in awe for the side nooks, the main shrine though, that brought me to tears…. a large gold Buddha sitting on a water-green marble ledge, each ledge supported by intricate armed elephants or deities. All around a dome that sparkles with soft blues and pinks and golds and silvers – a mass of complicated, flowing pattern and detail.
As I step closer to one of the three arches that give one a glimpse, I notice that the people leaving have a teary look and as I stand there I feel a soft rising of energy, a grace that brings tears to my own eyes. This isn’t my religion, these aren’t my deities, yet this space speaks to me – a gentle caress of energy surround me, of a moment, just a moment.
I stand for what feels like a long while and then look around for my fellow travelers – we are a small group of 5. They have drifted off and standing under a sign that says “stay in silence’ one asks, “Is this in marble then ?’ Her voice jars! An odd note of the mundane in a space that flows with magic. It jolts me out of the space I had so easily fallen into and I am back in the surface world – a world of language that separates me from feeling, one that divides me from the truth as soon as I try and label it, define it and story it!
The contrast is so stark I can’t help wondering about how we have learnt to live our lives ? Have we gotten ourselves so stuck in a world of rational thinking and language that we can no longer see or experience? The temple didn’t allow any cellular or electronic devices in, so I was spared the selfie and picture experience yet even then, the western tourists that we were somehow couldn’t just be ‘in’ the space. We had to judge it and label it and hold it to a set of standards that it was never meant to live up to and so I sensed as they walked out it was just an interesting place, pretty, nice carvings, nothing more! It was as if they didn’t see it, they were too full of themselves and I was reminded of that story if the master and the student and the cup of tea. The student comes to the master to be enlightened and the master puts him a cup of tea and it overflows and the master says, see, this is how you come to me. Full up and overflowing. There is no space for anything new, anything else, anything that doesn’t fit the life and story you have already built.
As everyone starts talking about the visit and themselves and what they want from the trip, I fall back. For me the sparkle lingers. The stillness that space held calls me and I find that it doesn’t make sense to let it go. What if this is how we are meant to live and experience the world ? What if language comes after not before ? What if living from silence and stillness, in this amazing place of lightness and laughter, what if this was what normal was always supposed to be ?
Is this enlightenment? Or at least the edges of it ? The ability to walk in the world, see it but also feel the space and stillness and joy that flows around it and through it, invisible but always present should you choose to look. What if all it takes is to let go of language; to make space ; to start to pay attention, without words