This is not the Buddha. The complexity of religious imagery in Southeast Asia is staggering to the Western mind. As we meandered the region at twelve miles per hour on our tandem bicycle, we saw so many depictions of religious beings that we will be years sorting them all out, if we ever manage the task.
Our idea before traveling there by muscle power, was that various forms of Buddhism was the dominant spiritual force. We spent twelve days in Bangkok in 2000, after our tandem tour around Australia, visiting temples, and missed the complexity of spiritual life in Southeast Asia. In Bangkok, Buddhist is the dominant religion, and the other forms were decidedly muted by the fantastic representations of the Buddha. Outside of the large centers, religious symbolism is much more complex matter.
The photo above is one of many very large stone statues at Buddha Park a dozen or so kilometers outside of Vientiane, Laos. In the middle of a long hot day on a dirt road, we spent an hour or more wandering this fantastic few acres near the Mekong river. Although called Buddha Park, it contained representations of numerous spiritual beings, figures in a complex mythology of Asian historic spiritual practice.
I post this because Claire is now finishing up her first magazine article, illustrated with both our photos from this tandem trip, The Many Faces of Buddha. We will announce when the article ,and post a link to the magazine’s site.
If anyone has any interest in the complexity of Southeast Asian spirituality, and wishes to share experiences or knowledge about it, we’d love to hear from you. Post a comment below.
There will be more photos in later articles.