We are in Luang Prabang, Laos — walking around and looking at Buddhist monasteries and their artwork. Buddhists in Asia devised standardized images related to their beliefs regarding the life of the Buddhha and the afterlife.
Around 1000 CE, Chinese Buddhists came to believe in various “hells” where people suffered as a way of paying for misdeeds during their life. These hells were merely a stage between lives and each hell was designed to correspond to particular sins — for example, liars might be sent to a hell where one’s tongue was cut out. We saw images of the Buddha, of Buddhist teaching, and Buddhist hells.
We get up at 5:30 AM to watch the Tak bat — the Buddhist monk collection of food. Each morning the Buddhist monks in Luang Prabang leave ther monasteries early in the morning and walk single file carrying their alm bowls.
Lay people wait, sometimes kneeling, and place food, flowers, and incense sticks in the monks bowls.
This event has become a tourist attraction and some authorities are considering ending the Tak bat because the tourists often fail to maintain silence and take photographs which disrupt the sacred atmosphere.
We watch monks file by.
We find a position where we will not disrupt the ritual and watch lay people giving the monks food.
Over 1000 monks come from 24 temples each morning — they come from different directions. The monks receive their daily food and the lay people attain merit for providing this food.
We look at a Buddhist altar. The lay people support the monks who have the opportunity to gain enlightenment. If a lay person gains enough merit, he/she might be reborn as a monk and thereby gain enlightenment — which ends the cycle of birth and death.
More temple art
Buddhism changed over time as it moved east from India. These days it continues to change as Westerners consider the idea that meditation is a form of self-therapy.
Buddhism exists in many different forms and in Laos is is joined with shamanic beliefs in local spirits. All temples have guardian figures, such as lions or snakes, which provide protection from bad spirits.
You can practice meditation without concen about belief or non-belief. Merely sit in a quiet place and pay attention to your breath — breathing in — breathing out — when thoughts come, take note of them and return your attention to your breath.
Many people reading this blog are interested in travel. Consider taking an inner journey to visit the worlds inside you.