Sunday, March 08, 2009

Cambodian Dreams

Here is the Royal Pool at Wat Nokor. Those of you who have read my books know how I feel about royal pools; when I write of them, I am writing of this place.

Nagas live here.

Sometimes I think Cambodia appears to exist as our most exquisite demonstration of impermanence. I think every Buddhist should visit for a couple of months or more, and just wander around.

I have some Cambodian karma, its true; therefore, every so often I feel compelled to remind people that Cambodia is "still there." They've built a stupa at Phnom Pros (above) to commemorate the victims of Year Zero: here is the offering one sees (below).

Would it seem so strange if I said, "Wish you were here?"

Buddhism exhaled in the 20th century, and went up in smoke. Only Thailand and Bhutan were spared the ravages: both monarchies, steeped in theocracy. However, even these, too, shall eventually know emptiness, as Buddhist monarchies have come and gone throughout history like sun and moon.

Maybe the task of the 21st century isn't so much about building new temples as it is about saving the ones we already have. Maybe, as Buddhists, our charge is to save them without regard to cultural specifics. When you see the devastation wrought upon Buddhist installations in Southeast Asia, your reaction is to tell Tibet and Mongolia, "you should feel lucky." Go read Kurt Behrendt's Buddhist Architecture of Gandhara, and grab a trowel.

I don't know what else to say about this place. In the midst of death one is so much closer to life. You can eat and drink the air, and tea in a crumbling clay cup intoxicates.

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