When we arrived at our Kandy hotel last night, it was buzzing with what felt like hundreds of petite Asian women, all dressed in white. They were Thai pilgrims, here to pray at the Temple of the Tooth, one of the most sacred pilgrimage sites on the Buddhist trail. To our Western minds it sounds pretty weird to build a religious complex around what may or may not be one of Buddha’s teeth. But when we think about all the churches we have visited in Europe who have bones from saints, pieces of the cross, Jesus’ blood, etc., it is clear that this sort of thing is found as part of many religions. Back in the day the ruler who had possession of the tooth, had the goods to be in charge. Some battles ensued.
Long lines of worshippers bearing flowers mingled with camera toting tourists. Guards made sure that no one lingered longer than fifteen seconds in front of the stupa which supposedly contains the tooth. Upstairs near another stupa people had wrapped handkerchiefs containing coins around banisters. Even though Buddhism is supposed to be a philosophy rather than a religion, it appeared that people were praying to Buddha to answer the wishes they made as they left the coins. Buddha was a man, not a god and his teachings were meant to help people to live better lives. But many people seem to need some sort of deity to make sense of the chaos and suffering in the world. To our eyes it looked like people were praying TO Buddha rather than meditating on his teachings. It was a happening place. Frescoes on the walls portrayed what must be a fabulous festival which takes place every August when elephants parade to the temple which is lit by millions of candles.
In this climate plants grow like crazy, so the botanical garden here met our expectations for fabulousness. Enormous trees, bamboo that grows six inches a day. Even though this is not the main blooming season, there were flowers everywhere we looked. It must be an enormous task to keep the beds weeded and the larger plants pruned.
We also went to a spice garden which contains plants that have some medicinal value. After extensive explanations of what the plants could do for us, we got free massages on any area that was causing us pain. As my healer worked on my knees, he managed to get some large bloops of medicinal oil on my pants. I could not get the stains out, so I sent them out to be laundered with fingers crossed. The hotel laundry bag stated that they don’t do laundry on rainy days. It rains here every day, many times a day. When we passed a large area where a commercial laundry had hung the clothes out to dry on lines along the road, we understood why. Between the rain drops, someone managed to get my pants clean and dry. Thank you, Buddha.