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Thursday, March 08, 2012

Spiritual Awakening

Buddha though the Wat window, Pattaya
Something happened to me, yesterday, while I was participating in the "wain tein" - the procession 'round the Temple on Makha Bucha Day, the day to honor The Buddha.

I don't rightly know what it was, exactly, but it moved me to tears.

First, we - and there were literally thousands of us spiritual pilgrims - moved to the entrance of the Wat where we were blessed with Holy Water by one of the monks.

We all removed our shoes and, with hands in prayer and head down in reverence, the monk splashed us all mightily with water.

It was a bit like being before the Pope, except we were much, much closer. And, neither ashamed nor afraid.

Meanwhile, in the background, one could hear another monk delivering a sermon over the intercom.

From what I could understand from some of the people - my fellow spiritual pilgrims - he was expounding on the story of the Buddha's Enlightenment and how, 2,500 years ago, 1,250 monks who had been ordained by the Buddha simultaneously made their way to see him.

After being properly blessed, we placed our shoes at the entrance to the temple and bought a bouquet of flowers, a candle and some incense where we took our places in the procession.

We were to walk counterclockwise around the Wat three times, with a stop off, at some point - if we wished -  into the back entrance of the Wat to venerate The Buddha.

The Monks and other 'dignitaries' seemed to be using the front entrance.

It took me about two times 'round before I figured out how it all worked and even then, I wasn't exactly certain.

I was very hesitant to do something wrong and, God forbid, someone would take offense, but I found the Thai people very accommodating and helpful.  And, graciously understanding.

So, up the steps I went, into the side of the Temple entrance, where there were statues of Buddha and some of the ancient priests who were his teachers.

I sat on one of the mats and noticed that the noise from outside suddenly disappeared. It was incredibly silent. There were a few people there with me, sitting on their side, hands in prayer, silent.

Clearly, this was a Holy Place.

My first thought was, "Oh, God, I don't know any of the proper prayers, much less how to say them. So, what do I think I'm doing here?"

The woman next to me seemed to hear my thoughts and turned to me, motioning toward the statue of Buddha and nodding her head in approval.

She seemed to be saying, "It's okay. Just pray in your own way."

And so, I did.

I closed my eyes and focused my energy and began to meditate.

I suppose I thought - silly me - that praying in English, even silently, would not be understood by the Buddha (I know, right?), so I began by calling up images of the individual members of my family and asking for health and happiness for each of them.

Then, I called up an image of a dear friend of mine who was to have vascular surgery that day in the States and asked for healing. Then, I called up other images of people I know and love I wanted to hold in prayer for various reasons.

In my mind, I asked for some things. Other times, I simply called them up in prayer, one by one. And, lo and behold, there they were. In front of me. 

The thing of it is, I could see each of them clearly before me. Indeed, the clarity was rather startling.  It was not just a still image. It was as if they were really there, in front of me....although, not. It was like an apparition but of a person who was not dead but quite alive.

It was at about that point, when I was trying not to be startled or scared about what I was seeing, that I had the thought, "I wonder if the Buddha and Jesus really do walk together, as some say."

Just then, I had an image of Jesus before me. Not the image of what I like to call "the high school yearbook" picture of Jesus.  You know the image: shoulder-length dirty-blonde hair, light skinned, 3/4 profile, with back lighting for dramatic effect.

Not that Jesus. It was one I had never seen much less imagined but instantly knew that it was Jesus. Of this, there was no doubt in my mind. He looked more like a small, lean, leathery-skinned, wiry Palestinian Jew.  He was smiling and nodding his head.

I felt nothing but love and deeply at peace.

It was at that point that I realized I was weeping. I don't know why, really. I wasn't scared. I was oddly at peace and profoundly comforted.

It felt so wonderful, there seemed to be nothing else to do but weep. Not sobbing dramatically or anything. Just letting the tears flow.

The women on either side of me were suddenly by me.  They seemed to know that I had just had a deeply spiritual experience.  They helped me to my feet and the walked with me one while I walked the last time 'round the Wat. All the way 'round they smiled and patted my arm.

I met up with Rob and we walked outside the Wat in silence until we stumbled onto another shrine.

This one had an image of The Buddha surrounded by some other ancient teachers.

Again, the silence in the shrine was astounding.

This was unmistakably a Holy place.

People were purchasing small foils of gold which they attached to the statue before and after praying.

I'm not sure of the significance of the gold foil but Rob says that when one of the priests comes to visit in your home, they leave several around the door way entrance.

Indeed, we passed a few homes and shops and restaurants on the way home which had gold foil around the doors. The Monks have obviously been making the rounds and making some pastoral calls.

I suppose the gold foil is a sign of some value and worth - perhaps about that place or perhaps because a holy person has made a visit. I've not been able to find any information on Google and this is way beyond my abilities with Thai or most Thai I know to explain it to me in English.

It doesn't matter, really.  As the Buddhists teach, "When the student is ready, the teacher will appear."

Which may have been why Jesus appeared to me last night at the Wat.

I don't know what any of it means, really. I'm almost hesitant to write about this lest some of you fear I've gone right 'round the bend.

I only know what I know and saw what I saw and felt what I felt. And, I know it was true and real to me as well as I know my own name - even if I don't understand it all yet. .

This was a different side and experience of Jesus than I've had in all the years I've tried to walk with Him and follow in His way.

Here's what I've come to understand about it all: I have been in love with Jesus for most of my life and that will never change - except it has. I seem to love Jesus even more. I think, because of Buddha, I'll be even closer to Jesus.

Indeed, I found myself singing all the way home "Day by day. Day by day. Oh, dear Lord, three things I pray: To see thee more clearly. Love thee more dearly. Follow more nearly. Day by day."

Or, as the Buddha teaches, "It is better to travel well than to arrive".


Kay & Sarah said...

Thank you for this morning thoughts on the way one reflects on us and others. Just what I needed today.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

You're welcome.

carolscasa said...

Thank you for your moving words. I experience Jesus in a similar manner some 37 years ago when I was "trying" out meditation as a Lenten discipline (suggested by the priest in her Ash Wednesday sermon). After everyone was in bed, I was sitting in my rocking chair, eyes closed, when I saw Jesus, amorphous but I knew it was he, coming toward me from the opposite side of the room, arms outstreched. He hugged me closely - and then disappeared. This happened shortly before my life became turned upsidedown. Holding onto that vision of Jesus got me through that nearly year-long trial. Even to this day, I can call up the warm, strong feeling of that hug when I need it.

Muthah+ said...

This is the kind of connection with the Holy that we all long for. We get tastes of it throughout our lives. It is what brings us to our knees or as Desmond Tutu does--dance.

It is interesting that yesterday my bible study group began to share these moments with each other. I don't know what day it is with you or what time it was here--maybe it was just the sun spots rattling our psyche but I say it is the Holy breaking in.

May this Thai culture bring you closer to yourself, others and the Divine One that holds us all together. Prayers continue for you and Rob

Ron Andreatta said...

From a long time reader,
You arrived at a place of fullness. No explanations, fullness is all that remains. I am happy for you!

Raven~ said...


Do you know Paul Knitter?
Have you read his book, "Without Buddha I could not be a Christian" ?

If you have not, you have a treat in store ...

He teaches at Union
This is his FB page

love abides

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Carolscasa - I don't know what's next for me - either over the next two weeks in Thailand or when I get back home - but I know I am changed and transformed and will never again be the same.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Muthah - It's amazing to me that I had to go to a Buddhist nation to have a deeper experience of Jesus - and, that I didn't even know that I needed it.

I think we've all been starving so long we didn't even know we were hungry.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Ron - I'm still allowing it all to soak in.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Raven - You're the second person to tell me of this book. I'm ordering it today - hopefully on Kindle. If not, I'll get it when I arrive home.

whiteycat said...

Elizabeth, your post came on the same day that I began our Lenten Series which has an interfaith component. Your experience tells me what I believe ... that God is One and that we are fragmented. When we see through the Unified Field we will never be the same.

ROBERTA said...

Love this post. And I too recommend the book:) And on a stranger note,I found myself singing "Day by Day" over and over this morning as I waited for my car to be serviced...we are all connected, aren't we?

Brother David said...

Without Buddha I Could Not Be a Christian

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Whiteycat - I think our human-based understanding of God is more limited than we could ever imagine.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Roberta - all we can do is take one day at a time and enjoy it to its fullest. I think that is a universal philosophy that doesn't get lived out by too many people.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Br. David (and Raven) - I just ordered the book on Kindle. It will be my read for the night.

Kirkepiscatoid said...

Wow. Simply wow.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Kirke - Yeppa

Hutch said...

I remember a time when I was learning to do Healing Touch and was working on a dear friend who was also learning. At one point, I heard great booming bells and looked down onto a woman dressed in diaphonous robes on a marble slab. I managed to continue and then when it was over, asked her if she had seen or felt anything. She sighed and said - I heard bells, and you disappeared into an older woman in a green robe. Then we turned to our classmates, who were all staring at us. One finally said, we heard bells and then the two of you disappeared. Sounds crazy. But we all knew we had somehow stepped into a Holy Place. I search for it still.

RENZ said...

What a "wonder-full" post...I am so enjoying this series of posts. This one in particular touched me deeply.

RENZ said...

What a "wonder-full" post. I am so enjoying these posts. Thank you and God speed.