Vicarious Exploration Opportunity: World’s Tallest Buddha

There we were in Monywa with a spare day on our hands – not because we had planned to take a day off, but because when we reached Yesagyo after a pleasantly short 75km, the police sent us packing.  They were kind but insistent: no hotels there with the right documents to host foreigners, no possibility of letting us camp at the police station, no leniency regarding the “no homestays” law.  We had to push on for an additional 80km, normally a full day’s ride on mediocre roads under a blazing sun.

This happened to us a few times in Myanmar.  Staying in a place without tourist facilities was “dangerous,” but cycling into the area was permitted, and cycling out was permitted, even at night, in the dark, and in a storm.  Once the police offered to find some transportation for us…at about ten times the normal price.  I wonder who would’ve pocketed the difference?

But I digress.  In Monywa, with time to take a day off and worn out legs insisting that we do so.  Quick look at the guidebook – hey, the world’s tallest Buddha is just around the bend.  No surprise considering that Myanmar is reputed to be the most devoutly Buddhist country in the world.  Here’s a look at one face of that devotion.

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First stop: hall of the million Buddhas.  Each of those towers on the permiter of the building are filled with tiny Buddha statuettes, as is the entire inside.

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The view from afar.

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The view from a bit nearer.

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Proof of devotion.

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Reclining Buddha vs. Katya.

Reclining Buddha vs. Yours Truly.

(Photo by Chris Buchman)

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Mirek making the initial ascent.  Unfortunately, we arrived at 4:45 and the stairs, supposed to close at 5:00, had already been locked up.  We spent ten minutes begging and pleading with the guards, by the end of which they pointed to the clock.  4:55, no time now, go home.  Dah!  Sorry I can’t offer you a vicarious view out of the World’s Tallest Buddha’s 3rd Eye.  Or navel.

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With some time freed up, we went out back to poke around.

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It takes a man more mature than me not to think it’s funny that they chose this spot for the gateway into the reclining Buddha’s inner chambers.

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Ascetic Buddha.

Though technically he didn’t become the Buddha until he gave up his asceticism and sought the middle path.

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Creepy Diorama Buddha.

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Elsewhere: more Buddhas.  The little plaques have Korean names in Korean script.  Donors?

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A family paying homage.

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A family paying homage to the small Buddha at the foot of the enormous Buddha.

Note the seating position of the 2nd and 4th person there – I think it’s particular to Burma, at least as far as official prayer positions are concerned.  Koreans and Thais tend to bow like that first little boy is doing.

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Not allowed to go up, but we’ve still got some daylight.  And we spent good money ($2 each) on the taxi to get here.  Time to search out some other good photo spots.

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I was once advised by a Taiwanese grandpa attending one of my Vipassana sittings that if I happen to feel a buildup of energy around my third eye area, I ought to visualize chanelling out of my body via a hole in the bottom of my foot.  Assuming it was an individual quirk, I smiled and nodded politely.  Looks like maybe there’s something to it in the literature/mythology though?

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The old “forearm lattice” trick.

Me, Buddha, Buddies.

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