Making a Buddha: Women in Mandalay

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Therefore, the practice of generosity is about creating space.  We see our limits and we extend them continuously and consciously, joyfully, which creates an expansiveness and spaciousness of mind that’s deeply composed.

Sharon Salzberg

On one side of this narrow road in Mandalay men used power tools and chisels to carve the forms of many Buddhas and on the other side of the road women refined the figures by shaping the details and polishing the stone.  I was drawn to the gentle touch and concentration of these women.  They appeared generous in spirit and deeply composed like the Buddhas they were creating.

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TEMPLES OF SOUTH AND EAST ASIA: DISCOVERING THE SUBLIME IN A PHOTO

Free: Tues, Mar 11, 7 pm, Changes in Latitude, 2525 Arapahoe Ave, Boulder, CO

Join Deborah Bowman in a search of the transcendent at temple sites in Asia.  Enjoy the draw of both famous and obscure sites at times of silence or among throngs at colorful festivals.   Come now to enjoy a feast of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas or learn tips for great shots at exquisite gardens or inside darkened temples.

Deborah Bowman, Ph.D., is a photographer, psychologist & professor at Naropa University.

Tranquility and Insight in the New Year

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Two things will lead you to supreme understanding. What are those two? Tranquility and insight.

If you develop tranquillity, what benefit can you expect? Your mind will develop. The benefit of a developed mind is that you are no longer a slave to your impulses.

If you develop insight, what benefit will it bring? You will find wisdom. and the point of developing wisdom is that it brings you freedom from the blindness of ignorance.

A mind held bound by unconsidered impulse and ignorance can never develop true understanding.  But by way of tranquillity and insight the mind will find freedom.

–  The Buddha

Pouring water over the Buddha’s body is an act of devotion and new beginnings.  At Shwedagon temple in Yangon my husband joins hundreds of worshippers in this ritual of purification and commitment to the Buddhist path of tranquility and wisdom.  The moment was serene and full of delight.

Often the practice of bathing the Buddha is done on the day celebrated for his birth, enlightenment and death.  Below a woman baths the baby Buddha at the Lotus Lantern Festival in Seoul.

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Both these photos were taken on trips to collect images for my books, The Female Buddha (with quotes by women teachers) and The Luminous Buddha (with quotes by the Buddha).  Please click on these links to find out more!

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Contented Moments

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Contented moments are the potential of every moment.  Actually all moments are contented.  When they’re not, it’s because the mind has made a mess of them.

Sylvia Boorstein

 

This photo is from the Shwedagon temple in Burma where my husband and I visited last December.  The quote is from Sylvia’s book It’s Easier Than You Think.  Her sense of humor is something I could use right now!  I’ve been working hard to get photos ready for printing for my book The Female Buddha.   These last details are about to make my hair stand on end.  I think a little crow is helpful about now.

 

 

For more photos and inspirational words go to: www.thefemalebuddha.com

www.luminous buddha.com

Photos of Temple Life in Burma

Old Monk in MandalayMonk at Teak Temple

 Italian designed eight sided temple, Mandalay

These are just a few of the people we encountered visiting the temples of Mandalay and the surrounding towns in Burma.  The elder monk above guided us through an abandoned temple and showed us where the altars and Buddha statues used to sit.  He smoked a large cigar and folded it into his robes when I asked to take his photograph. 

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Woman ringing bell

Woman ringing Burmese Gong, Kuthodaw Paya (temple), Mandalay

This woman was demonstrating how to ring a traditional Burmese gong and sold us a smaller version after much haggling.  Her original prices were twice what we discovered on the streets  so we were happy to have engaged in   friendly haggling over the gongs.

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Children visiting temple

Young girls visiting a temple, Kuthodaw Paya (temple), Mandalay

These young students were on a field trip from the surrounding villages and flocked around us to see and touch a foreigner.  Their smiles and giggles were infectious and we found ourselves inundated by twenty or thirty at a time.  They wanted us to take their pictures and often expressed a mixture of delight and embarrassment when I snapped a shot.  

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Women Praying

      Women Praying, Mahamuni Paya (temple), Mandalay

This famous temple receives thousands of visitors who come to venerate the famous Mahamuni Buddha image that is believed to have been caste in the 1st century AD.  Only the men are allowed to walk up to the image and apply gold leaf that is now more than six inches thick on the statue. The women gather to worship in front of the Buddha.

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Young Boys in Costume

          Young Boys in Temple Ceremony,

         Mahamuni Paya (temple), Mandalay

These boys stand in line waiting for the procession to begin where they will be “king for the day”.  This Buddhist initiation ceremony occurs once a year and is a once in a lifetime opportunity for both girls and boys.  When we first asked a bystander about the procession where an adult holds an umbrella over the head of each child, he pointed to a girl and said she was “queen for the day”.  I put my hand to my heart to express the specialness of the occasion yet couldn’t stop my mind from the association to the TV show of my childhood era where women were crowned “queen for the day”.  What a different experience! 

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Young people in costume


              Preparing for Temple Procession, 

                                              Mahamuni Paya (temple), Mandalay

These young people pose for a group photo before they join the processional walk around the temple.  Unlike the children we met everywhere we went they held back their smiles for the seriousness of the event.  I am so thankful we stumbled on this ceremony and just wish I could say more about its meaning and origin. 

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Nun studying for exam

Nun Studying for Exam, Samaidodaya Recluse, Sagaing

This beautiful nun was the attendant for the head abbess of a monastery for approximately 250 women.  While we visited and had tea with the elder abbess the young woman studied for an important exam she would take the next day at a Buddhist university.  Her studies included English and she was able to share at bit of her knowledge of the challenging Buddhist philosophy she was preparing to be tested on.  

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Whenever you have friendliness to yourself, then friendliness to your world happens simultaneously.  As natural goodness begins to dawn in your heart, and a sense of dignity begins to occur.  The more you open yourself up to this process, the more you find that the world extends its hospitality for you to proclaim your dignity.

Cynthia Kneen, Awake Mind, Open Heart

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More inspirational words and photos at