Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Another rewarding journey

Visiting Lantau Island, and the Tian Tan Buddha featured highly on my list of priorities whilst in Hong Kong.  It was well worth the at times excruciating 2 hour wait to board the Ngong Ping cable car, which had the effect of introducing a pilgrimage quality to the expedition, challenging commitment and testing both patience and stamina.  The final leg of the journey involves climbing the 268 steps up to the lotus platform on which the Buddha sits.   

The awesome giant bronze Buddha which stands (or more accurately sits) at 34m tall and weighs over 250 tonnes took 12 years to complete occupies a majestic position, sitting serenely atop the Ngong Ping plateau, overlooking the spectacular mountain scenery of Lantau.  The magnificent figure with its compelling presence inspires Buddhists from all over Asia, and attracts tourists from all over the globe and had the perhaps unforeseen effect of transforming the distinctly humble Po Lin monastery, and its devout monks who offer delicious vegetarian fare to their visitors into a must-see destination which features on many a tourguide's schedule. 

What is perhaps undertaken by fewer travellers is the bus ride back to Tung Chung station.  Comparable only to the alpine coach journeys I've endured in anticipation of, or following a ski trip, route 23 really did challenge one's newly restored sanity/serenity.  With the only seat belt being available to (but not worn by) the driver, passengers were obliged to rely on the headrests of those in front of them, and sharp inhalations of breath were to be heard as we wound around the tight hairpin turns which dominated the circuitous return journey.  Judging by the speed at which most of the camera clutching passengers disembarked from the bus, it seemed as though the sight of the MTR (underground) station was a more than usually welcome one.  

Climbing off the bus, albeit with some degree of relief having arrived at the intended destination (which might, at certain points during the journey, have inspired quite high odds) I found myself still captivated and awestruck by the proportions of the Buddha, and the graceful beauty of it and the surrounding statues, 'the Offering of the Six Devas' each of which is depicted offering a different gift to the Buddha: flowers, incense, lamp, ointment, fruit, and music.  I later discovered that the offerings are anything but coincidental generosity, as they symbolise charity, morality, patience, zeal, meditation, and wisdom: the necessary prerequisites to achieve nirvana. 

Whilst I am, I fear, still some way off nirvana, the day trip moved me on a very deep level.  Apparently the hormones released at childbirth cause women to instantly forget the pain labour involves (which explains how we are able to give birth more than once without requiring lobotomies), the memories that proliferate having visited the gentle giant who represents the possibility of harmonious relationship between man and nature, people and religion obliterated the arduous struggle endured to get there.   


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