Archive for the ‘Buddhist temple’ tag
This set of doors are private doors that lead into the residential area of the Tianning Buddhist Temple. The public entrance is along a different wall and people pay to enter this temple which is an active temple and a tourist attraction. However, no tourists enter into this section of the temple grounds. When I stopped for the photo I was interested in the door handles which are actually quite common. I liked the look of these and the peeling paint on the doors. What I didn’t see at first was that the doors didn’t fully shut out the inner courtyard from scrutiny. I knew that the crack was there, but thought that it wouldn’t wreck the photo too much. And, if it did there was always a lot more similar photos already in the archives.
Yesterday, when looking through the latest set of photos, I noticed that the opening drew my attention and held it. It was as if the rest of the door was inconsequential. In spite of the lack of focus behind the door, it became the centre of my attention. It was then that I realised that the door was a visual metaphor for persona, the barrier that keeps the outer world, outside and thus allowing the ego to protect its fragile sense of self. The ego controls the doors, has several sets of doors which present purposeful masks and identities to the world. However, unknown to the ego is how time and the energy it takes to maintain the fiction of the doors, the various personae. I know that I was oblivious to the effect that life was having on my identities of teacher, coach, parent, counsellor and athlete. Like these doors, the masks for these identities were beginning to fray on the edges, showing cracks that hinted of something else behind those cracks.
And then I saw this image again and saw a different story, one that talked to my sense of a personal journey into the unknown, the journey of individuation. With my ego fracturing and the realisation that I needed to do some serious work to rescue my self in terms of core identity, purpose and meaning, I caught a glimpse of a new journey, a new destination. There was just enough light showing through my own cracks that served to act as a beacon, asking me to enter. The light behind the cracks became a compelling voice and I knew that it was a call to me to begin my own Odyssey like some modern day Odysseus in search of my real home, my real being.
It amazes me what I sometimes see in a photograph – I seem to slip out of an objective space and enter an alternate reality. And for this, I am thankful.
This is a Buddhist temple in Ben Tre, Vietnam which I found only blocks away from the hotel I was staying at for one night in the Mekong Delta region. It was an island of calm surrounded by a busy city. The temple was within, yet dissociated. It had a different rhythm. It seemed to be comfortable in its uniqueness in its environment, alone talking to the gods who had been banished to silence in the city proper. Surrounded by the city, isolated by the city, yet at ease.
I am somehow slowing down with posting here, perhaps it is the warmth and sunshine of spring or perhaps it is more about losing focus. I notice that fewer people are visiting my site (this version of my site – the old site which is dormant gets more visitors). Is it time to let the posting take a significant pause? I wonder if I am beginning to spin my wheels and simply repeating the same stuff over and over again? I am too lazy to go through the numerous (835) posts in order to answer this question.
The process of introspection, reflection and active imagination through images will continue for me whether I blog or not. I wonder at the investment in this blog site, the investment of time, hope, and even anticipation. Is it time to pull back and focus on a single, unified larger project such as a book? With a background of mostly silence, it often seems that I am engaging in talking to myself out loud. I know that some of my readers will disagree with this as they are faithful in reading and in posting comments along the way. This reflection on my part is not a criticism of readers or the lack thereof. Rather, it is an existential question of meaning and purpose.
I begin to think that I need more face-to-face dialogue, more one-on-one dialogue, that touches on themes I bring up here. Living in China where language barriers are real and where few would be willing to discuss these things even without a language barrier, perhaps highlights the lack of connection.
I am interested in the thoughts of my readers in this and welcome a “commentary” discussion.
I took this photo in a tiny open space just off the entrance to the small temple near Dong Po Park. The little space contained only a black structure that looked like a styled tub which was used to hold joss sticks, and this candle holder. It is a place of prayer. I thought it fitting that this place of prayer was also a place of shadows. Looking at the teeth of the candle holder, it also appears to be a place of pain and danger.
The sharp lines in contrast to the graceful curves are matched by the conflict between light and dark. The harshest conflict is found near the base where the points that are meant to hold candles appear to be hungry teeth. Teeth that are black contrasted by the intensity of the light.
In so many ways, the scene makes me think of where one finds oneself in the midst of psychological crisis. Personally, I am thankful that I have been graced with the occasions of psychological crisis. I can almost here protestations – no, I don’t think I am crazy. I don’t enjoy pain. I am not masochistic. I don’t enjoy the chaos and fear. I much prefer living in light and relaxing in quietness with a good book and good company. Yet, it has only been in times of psychological crisis that I have been able to become unstuck and find a way forward, a changed man.
“Any conflict situation constellates the problem of opposites. Broadly speaking, “the opposites” refers to the ego and the unconscious. This is true whether the conflict is recognized as an internal one or not, since conflicts with other people are almost always externalizations of an unconscious conflict within oneself. Because they are not made conscious, they are acted out on others. This is called projection . . . ” (Sharp, Jungian Psychology Unplugged, p. 49)
I am learning, albeit slowly, that it is almost always something about myself. I am learning to sit back after the fact, to question myself. I have been learning that it is pointless to constantly blame others for the conflicts. It takes two to tangle. If I could resolve my inner conflicts before they emerge into the outer world, most of the conflicts with others would not be happening. For this, I admit my own culpability in all of these conflicts.
This is a detail from the hallway that separates the main temple from small meditation and prayer rooms at a Buddhist temple in the central part of the city of Changzhou. The temple, Jiuhua Chansi, is a Buddhist Temple For Nuns. One of the things about this photo that caught my attention was the shift from darkness below to darkness above with the light located at the bottom central part of the photo.
This temple was a lot smaller than most Buddhist temples I have visited here in China. It’s smallness made me think of how focused the life of the nuns must be. Each bit of space was treated as if it was at the centre of their care, even the darker spaces. Being within the temple with its dark and light spaces, I sensed that they “fit” together and “belonged” together. There was no attempt to banish the dark areas with artificial light.
I know that I am driven to bringing more light into my own darkness. I now doubt that the intention is to banish the darkness, but more to give it form and to feel that I am “more” rather than “less.” The darkness is also who I am on a personal and a collective level.
“A more or less superficial layer of the unconscious is undoubtedly personal. I call it the “personal unconscious”. But this personal layer rests upon a deeper layer, which does not derive from personal experience and is not a personal acquisition but is inborn. This deeper layer I call the “collective unconscious”. I have chosen the term “collective” because this part of the unconscious is not individual but universal; in contrast to the personal psyche, it has contents and modes of behaviour that are more or less the same everywhere and in all individuals. (Jung, CW 9i, pp 3-4)
It would be absurd for me to think that “I” could bring light to all this darkness, awareness to all that is unknown within me including the collective darkness. In thinking more about this, I realise that to banish darkness would leave one blinded by light, totally undifferentiated. The “I” would disappear and all that would be left would be a white void. So, I begin to be thankful for the shadows that give form and substance. that gifts me with images.
I looked a bit further into Jung’s work and found this:
“Why have we not long since discovered the unconscious and raised up its treasure-house of eternal images? Simply because we had a religious formula for everything psychic — and one that is far more beautiful and comprehensive than immediate experience. Though the Christian view of the world has paled for many people, the symbolic treasure-rooms of the East are still full of marvels that can nourish for a long time to come the passion for show and new clothes. What is more, these images — be they Christian or Buddhist or what you will — are lovely, mysterious, richly intuitive.” (Jung, CW 9i, pp 7-8)
Ah! Now I know why I am entranced by these images, they “are lovely, mysterious, richly intuitive.”