Teachers can show up in unusual places, in unexpected ways. In people, in circumstances, and sometimes in feelings. What or who has been your teacher?
Sandwiched between two white sheets in the dark of our hotel room, it felt like someone was in the room. I knew right away who it was. In my mind’s eye, I imagined him.
He sat tall. His head reached up to the heavens. His eyes were closed, like mine. He was quiet and strong.
If I had known more about him, I would have imagined how he sat. Each position has a story.
He didn’t say anything. I didn’t think to ask this vague image in my mind. I am not a follower of Buddha, but this didn’t stop him from giving me a gift.
Curious about the feeling of him, I simply noticed. Me aware of him. Him aware of me.
Later that day, we traveled to see the Golden Buddha at Wat Traimit in Bangkok. The shiny gold statue stood nearly 10 feet tall.
It was here that Buddha sat in the position referred to as Calling the Earth to Witness.
His legs were crossed in half lotus posture. His left hand lay in his lap, palm up. His right hand reached down to touch the Earth, and this was the gift.
Calling the Earth to Witness
One day Boeing, our guide, told us the story of this position.
Just before Siddhartha was enlightened, the demon Mara attacked him to scare him from his meditation under the bodhi tree. Siddhartha did not move.
The demon claimed the seat of enlightenment for himself, saying his spiritual accomplishments were greater than Siddhartha’s. Then, Mara’s devotees cried out together, “I am his witness!”
Mara challenged Siddhartha–who will speak for you?
Siddhartha reached out his right hand and touched the earth. The earth spoke, “I bear you witness.”
With that, Mara disappeared. Siddhartha, having passed the last test, became the Buddha. This means one who is enlightened.
In Chiang Mai, we went to Doi Suthep, where a bone from Buddha’s shoulder is enshrined as a relic. I purchased a brass bell there. One rings these bells located outside temples to let Buddha know, I am here.
My bell is etched with two elephants, their trunks up in the air, a symbol of good luck. It hangs at my desk on a light. Occasionally, I’ll ring it to hear the sound. It echos like a singing bowl.
It reminds me that the Earth will bear witness. If no one else will do it for me, the Earth will.
It silences the voice of Mara. For me, the Earth bearing witness brings a deep sense of contentment. It ends striving for what once seemed missing. Who will be your witness? This was my gift from Buddha.
image credits: The Golden Buddha at Wat Traimit 2014 Marie LaForce