There is an amazing story related the statue of Lord Buddha, pictured above! He sits in Bangkok’s Wat Traimit temple. This is a large and amazing statue. At almost 13 feet (3.9 meters) tall and 10 feet (3 meters) wide, this statue is made from 11,000 pounds of solid gold. It is the world’s largest solid gold object. The current value of the statue’s raw materials alone is about $250 million. The story is priceless!
The Golden Buddha’s story is an amazing, almost unbelievable one. It was created sometime after the 1200s and before the 1700s. In any case, in the 1700s the statue was encased in a stucco and coated with glass, to hide it from bandits and armies during an especially turbulent period of local history. It was very well hidden! The Burmese attacked the region of Siam where the statue lived, and most all valuable items were taken. Even the stone heads of buddhas were cut off and sold. Ayutthaya, the statue’s home city, fell into ruin, and the statue sat alone (meditating in solitude?). A century or more later the statue was moved to the new capital of Bangkok and into a new temple. And this temple was also abandoned, and the statue was moved to a smaller temple, in a simple building with a tin roof. It sat, neglected and forgotten until 1954. At this time the statue was moved to a new location built to house it. In the move it was damaged. And in being broken, its true nature was revealed. Inside the glass and stucco, an inexpensive exterior in which it was encased, the solid gold statue was rediscovered. No one had even known it was lost or awaiting discovery.
Aren’t we all like this statue in some way? There is an inner light in every being. We are radiant and bright and clear and wise. But, we have covered ourselves up with ideas and habits, grasping and aversion and doubt. The inestimably valuable heart of every one of us has gradually been encased in stone, and even forgotten. We don’t know it is there, we don’t even believe something so worthwhile abides within us, too close to see. We think we are our current shape and form. We think we are broken. We feel are are worthless. We wish we could start over.
Spiritual practice - yoga, meditation, prayer, self-study - these things begin to polish the mirror of our spirit. Encrusted by lifetimes of faulty thinking and poor choices, it takes work. But slowly, slowly we become aware of the light inside ourselves. It peaks out through the cracks. Sometimes even others notice it in us. And again, slowly, slowly, our diligent and persistent work picks at the stuff accreted around us that isn’t us. We develop strength and flexibility in our bodies and in our patterns of thinking and even in relating to our feelings and emotions.
Shining out in every direction like the radiant golden statue does might take us centuries, or mere moments. But there comes a point where there is not so much holding the fortress of our heart together anymore, and the walls crumble faster and faster. When this happens we can’t help but feel kinder towards ourselves and others. We can’t help but want to align with the truth of our being. And, what is that truth? Simply that we are kind, loving, courageous and creative beings that thrive only when we are connected to the Source of all. Call that God or Spirit or Buddhanature or anything you like. But to quote His Eminence Yongdzin Rinpoche, that state is unspeakable yet knowable. It is clear light - clear and light.
Our practice does not remake us, it undoes us. It takes us back to our original face, to the imperishable truth of us. Practice shows us what we are not - not this name, not this body, not job or gender or nationality, not even this species. Sometimes the work is unpleasant: we are so attached to being who we think we are that letting go is like picking at a scab, or taking out sutures. But the more you release, the more you will shine. The more free you become to respond in fullness to each moment of life. It can be frightening to discover how big you really are, but it changes everything. Be like the golden buddha and reveal who you truly are!