Monday, October 6, 2008

Finding peace in Colombo

“Sri Lanka has about 60% Buddhists and the rest is made up of other religions,” says our taxi driver/ tour guide, “but we all live together in peace”.

I’m in Colombo with some colleagues and taking the time to see the city. The army is visible almost everywhere and to me it looks more like war than peace.

“It’s only the Tamils that cause the problems here in Sri Lanka and only in the north.”

The question is should I feel safe that there are so many soldiers with big guns around or does it mean that the city is indeed treacherous.

Well, I guess the world is becoming a more dangerous place every day no matter where I go. Our driver recommends that our sightseeing includes all the historical religious buildings in the city: the Hindu temple, the Catholic Church and the Buddhist temple.

The Hindu temple is closed when we get there so we proceed to the Catholic Church where we watch people crawling underneath a type of shrine containing a statue of Mother Mary. It is interesting to note how religious rituals vary from country to country.

We pass a beautiful mosque on the way to the Buddhist temple but our driver says that it has no historical value and thus we should only take note of the aesthetics of this building as part of today’s multi-religion tour.

Inside the Buddhist temple we discover an interesting mix of Chinese, Thai and Taiwanese styles. There is a giant Bodhi tree in the middle of the place underneath which people meditate hoping to reach Nirvana in the same way that Buddha did. In the corner an elephant with really long teeth is enjoying a bite of fresh leaves.

“The elephant will be used in a celebration this week. One of the Buddha statues from the temple will be tied to his back.”

When we are ready to leave one of our colleagues is missing. We find her chatting to a monk in an orange robe. The monk invites all of us into a room filled with porcelain and all kinds of Buddha statues, including the smallest Buddha in the world.

He proceeds to tie multicoloured threads around our wrists and offers us blessings. I realise that there is no need to be afraid of war if my soul is free. This world is not what it seems to be.

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