It was spring in Philadelphia, a few weeks away until the Cambodian New Year. There was a vat (temple) that had opened for about two years already. This vat was very modest at first, when it was converted from a church to a temple. It did not have much, but a couple of Buddha figures that was about two feet tall. It was not until this particular year, the second year in operations that the vat raised enough money for a sixty foot Gold Buddha. This Gold Buddha was a pride and joy for the ministers of the vat.
Through countless ceremonies and prayer blessings and donations given by the Cambodian people who attended the temple, the ministers hired professionals to create a huge Buddha image made of gold. This Gold Buddha sits upon a Lotus bed, made with finest gold and had great values. The Gold Buddha arrived some weeks before through freight truck and was quickly assembled inside the temple, reaching from floor to ceiling.
It was a splendid sight to see with the Gold Buddha sitting upon his Lotus bed surrounded by smaller Standing Buddhas and in the center of the Offering Altars. During this time, a week before New Year, the ministers and many volunteers was busy prepping for the New Year and also getting ready to reveal the Gold Buddha to the partisans.
Two young Christian boys came to the temple with curious observations. They understood that during this time of the year is the New Year for the Cambodian people. Having also lived close by the temple, they had witnessed the peculiar celebrations going on in the temple the year before. But this year was special as they heard, inside the temple sits a huge Gold Buddha upon a Lotus Flower.
They understood that this Gold Buddha have peaked many interests inside the temple. They knew that this statue was a great pride and joy for the ministers. And thus, their interested minds wanted to take a look at the Gold Statue. They came upon a minister who regarded them annoyingly.
“Can we come inside to look at the Golden Statue?” asked the boys.
The minister scowled down upon them. He turned away without a reply. Now the boys was confused as to why they did not receive an answer. They came upon another minister and asked the same question, referring to the Gold Buddha as the “Golden Statue”. The minister replied sharply, “NO!” and walked briskly away to worry about far more important matters.
The two boys were not satisfied. Why did the ministers turn them away? They came upon a younger gentleman and asked if they can take a look at the ‘Golden Statue’. The gentleman was not very gentle. “Ayah! This is NOT a museum!” He shooed them away.
Along came a monk in an orange robe. The monk smiled warmly to them and approached them.
“You boys want to look at the Gold Buddha?” the monk inquired.
“Yes sir,” came their reply.
“Aren’t you boys of the Christian faith?” the monk asked them politely.
“Yes sir,” came their answer.
“Of course,” the monk nodded, “Why are you interested in seeing the Gold Buddha?”
“We just want to see how BIG he is,” said one boy.
“We want to see how much GOLD is on the statue,” replied the other.
“Ah yes,” the monk smiled and nodded, “You see, you boys regard the Buddha as just a ‘Golden Statue’. To the Ministers, they felt it was inappropriate to refer to the Buddha as just that. They believe that you boys were referring the ‘Gold Statue’ as just an idol.
“You were taught in the Bible about the Hebrews who false worship a Golden Calf statue while their leader, Moses was on top of the mountain receiving the Commandments. Your Christian faith teaches to not worship idols. False images of God.
“It is true that the Ministers themselves worship such materialistic things. The Ministers worship the value of the statue, in which is the case for this Gold Buddha. They do not follow the true teaching of Buddha, the path of self righteousness. They proudly proclaim the great value they’ve placed in their worship to Buddha. But they do not understand that God needs no image made of gold. It is the Minister’s greed and pride that is their religion.
“As you can see, the Ministers are also only interested in how BIG the statue is and how much GOLD it has in value. They are not interested in the Buddha. Otherwise, they would not take offensive to you boys taking a look at the ‘Golden Statue’. They do not wish to open their eyes. They continue to close their heart and follow their own desire.”
This was a tale that I had witnessed, prior to the monk’s revelations ( - which was based upon my own revelations afterward and thus added for this lesson). The true story begins with the boys asking to see the Golden Statue and nobody was willing to talk to them or explain to them that it was not appropriate to refer to the Buddha that way. When the ministers heard that and everyone else heard it, they thought to themselves that those boys were very rude and ignorant. But of course, the two boys did not know any better.
I wanted to explain to them that the vat is a holy place, like a church and that some people fear the boys might desecrate their place of worship. They saw the Christian boys as coming in and wanting to contradict their belief as some Christians would do. Therefore they turn their back from the young boys and did not offer any explanation.
I did not say anything then at the time until my very own revelation of this incident occurred to me at the time of writing this. Just because two parties have opposing views on the image of God, does not mean each party should disrespect one another. Proper explanation was due for better understanding. Actions could not satisfy communications.
The teaching of each religion began with spreading the Word. It did not begin with worshipping statues of Jesus or Buddha. “In the Beginning, there was the Word” (…of God).
© Copyright 2016 Sammy Wang Yang. All rights reserved.