This is a portion of a larger photo that I took earlier today at the Tianning Temple in ChangZhou. I had gone to the temple with a friend visiting from Canada. These incense sticks were used by my friend in a prayer ritual before being placed in one of the iron cauldrons to hold the incense sticks that have done their votive duties. I don’t know very much about Buddhism and my friend new even less. Taking quick observation lessons as others around us went through rituals with their bundles of incense, I helped my friend as she struggled with the ritual. In the end, the experience was good for my friend as she left feeling as though she had done something holy. And, that sense of holiness had nothing to do with the ritual, but with the attitude and intention of offering a prayer to whatever it is that takes on the projections of our individual prayers.
My earliest awareness of incense comes from the experiences of a Catholic confirmation when I was seven years old. With the ceremony, I felt that I had connected with something bigger than my sense of self, something that was good and pure. And as with all such experiences, the little things that dance in attendance around the event, the cathedral, the incense, the muted colours and filtered light all became associated with holiness, with wholeness. So, while my friend said her prayer, my own spirit felt an expansion and left me feeling as if I had prayed as well.
It has been a good day.