Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Bodhisattva of Mercy.

  Da Nang, Son Tra Peninsula, Vietnam.  Jan 2, 2013

Leaving my daughters fast asleep in the little villa, I head out before the sun rises and begin jogging upwards through mountain pathways into the jungle trees overlooking the South China Sea and the harbor beaches of Da Nang.
  High above me, on a hilltop beyond the tree line, stands an enormous white Buddha statue of a woman rising into the clouds, calling me forward.  Past the hissing snake dangling from the branches.  Over the babbling creek with  muddy glistening slope.  She is challenging me to reach her, even if I must climb on my hands and knees. 
  It’s a bit ironic, the Red Beach of Da Nang is where, on March 8th, 1965, the first American marines from the USS Henrico, Union, and Vancouver arrived and came ashore.  They were met by local officials and onlookers, even Vietnamese girls with flowery leis.  Apparently this display “appalled” General Westmoreland, the senior U.S. Military Commander in Saigon, who had hoped to deploy his soldiers without any fanfare.  But what did he expect, people not to show a little humble gratitude?
  After about an hour, drenched in sweat and caked in red mud, my knees cut up and dirt smeared over my face, I arrive at the temple site.  There are numerous colorful gates with inscriptions and etchings.  Forgotten stories and wise sayings.  Carvings of dragons and lotus ponds and sanctuaries and inner chambers.  Then, there is the statue herself.  Marvelously rising sixty-seven meters into the clouds, with multiple floors with small temple shrines, the Bodhisattva of Mercy, called a Kuan Yin, stands in perfect peace.
Old men were there sitting on benches and little uniformed school children were lining up outside the main entrance with their school teachers and moms.  It was then that it really dawned on me that  I’d taken the back way to the temple.  I was inappropriately dressed in running shorts covered in filth.  I tried walking around, blending in, but I was causing a scene.  Couples pointed at me and old women sneered.  It was time to go.  Crouching low beneath a tree, I stared up at the marbled goddess and winked a goodbye.  The best of women always know to forgive men who are on their hands and knees.

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