Golden Pagoda in the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, Bangkok
In Uma Devi‘s celestial playground
in Moulding Lane,
the architecture bubbles upwards
in pastel plastic ganglions,
culminating in a pantheon
of opulent deities staring unsmiling into space.
At the entrance a stall sells you
African yellow marigold garlands,
a bunch of green bananas,
a bottle of oil, a coconut;
for fifty baht a tray.
You take it down the passageway,
past gilded animals and deities
and sellers of miniature (and not so miniature) idols,
until you come to the inner sanctum.
Here a hospitable sign tells you
DO NOT ENTER
and a Brahmin takes your tray,
dabs a blob of red
randomly on your forehead
and sends you blissfully on your way.
Your offerings are discreetly returned
to the stall that sells them
for economic(al) recycling.
If the secular world had learned
the secret of Uma’s lesson
in husbandry and housekeeping,
we might have avoided this downward-spiralling
GREAT SIVA NIGHT
proclaims the poster on the gate.
The Committee has chosen the date;
and, for the benefit of those seekers of bliss
who might not come through a whole night of this,
has divided it into three-hourly sessions, four in all.
Devotees are mortal,
gods (and goddesses), indefatigable.
She sits in her room
with one hundred and eight
strung on a thread.
Every time she says “Buddho”
she moves another bead.
When Luang Por came to Bangkok,
her father took his family to
Soi Sailom to meet him.
“It is difficult to meet an Arahat
these days. You should ask for a boon”
She could not think
of anything to ask him.
Luang Por said,
“This family is shining!”
Now she is sixty-seven,
married to a retired general,
who eats and sleeps.
“Buddho.” she moves another bead.
“If I make merit by doing good
and share it with others,
how much will I be left with?”
“All of it.”
“How can that be?
If I have a hundred baht
and share it with you,
how much will I have?”
“Merit is not money.
It is Light.
If you light a candle
and share your light
with your friends
by lighting their candles,
you have no less light;
but the room itself becomes brighter.
So it is with merit.
The world becomes brighter.”
From Bamboo Leaves by Brian Taylor