Thursday, May 31, 2012

The "Great Sage" devotional ritual

Wei Deng (Wei on the Way/; Wisdom Quarterly
Mahamuni statue with monks and male assistants in white (Wei on the Way/

Mahamuni from space (Sylvain Brajeul/
MANDALAY, Burma - I got up at 3:00 am one, rode a rental bicycle for 4.35 miles (7 km) in the dark, pitch black in the absence of public street lights, with a flashlight.
I got there at almost 4:00 am, just in time to see the beginning of a devotional ritual in one of the oldest and most Buddhist countries in the world.
It commences every morning at 4:00 am when Theravada monks and white clad male attendants wash the face and simulate brushing the teeth of a magnificent Buddha image built by the akasha-deva Sakka, an extraterrestrial ruler. Sakka and Vissakamma built it and gave it to human beings in the area. In this way the Dharma could last a long time in the human world.

It is an elaborate ritual that takes more than an hour. A senior monk dressed in saffron robes assisted by several lay helpers dressed in white and wearing formal headdress perform the ritual.
As soon as the drums are struck, the monk residing in the adjoining monastery enters the sanctum and starts the formal face washing ritual with a succession of fresh towels offered by devotees.
He then performs the act of cleaning the Mahamuni's teeth with a large brush followed by another sequence of cleaning with fresh towels. Following this, sandalwood paste [a common sunscreen and natural cosmetic] is applied to the image.
It is again cleaned with fresh towels and finally sprinkled with scented water. After the ceremony is done, the used towels are returned to the devotees, who reverently keep them in their home shrines.

No comments: