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With Muslims At Borobudur

Monday, July 12, 2010

The most venerable I, together with 15 friends and students have just come back from Indonesia. The purpose of our trip was to visit the great Buddhist shrine at Borobudur. We arranged to stay in the Manohara Hotel which is set in the sylvan, flower-filled park around Borobudur and within walking distance of it.

When we arrived we were informed that one of Indonesia’s largest Islamic organizations was having its congress in nearby Yogyakarta, that 20,000 people are attending and that many of them will probably visit Borobudur. When I heard this the slightest feeling of unease came over me. Whether or not it is justified, Islam does have a ‘scary’ image in many peoples’ minds. We had already decided to visit the shrine early in the morning so we would probably avoid the crowds anyway – or so I thought. Even when we got there at 6.30 there were already a lot of people there – all the women with head scarf’s and the men with taqiyahs. I had been half expecting unfriendly or disapproving looks, or at least blank stares. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Almost without exception, everyone met me with a beaming smile, an extended hand, polite inquiries about where I was from or requests to have photographs taken with me. After a while the friendliness actually became a bit overwhelming and prevented me from concentrating fully on the temple itself. Several people asked me to give them a detailed explanation of Buddhism (Good God! Is there no escape!) and one elderly gentleman took my hand on being told I was a Buddhist monk said to me, ‘You Buddhists have given we Indonesians this lovely temple.

Thank you’. I also noticed that some of the visitors showed a real appreciation for the meaning of the temple, carefully examining the carved panels and looking appreciatively at the Buddha statues.  It’s always good for you to have to readjust your mindset in the face of reality.  My next post will deal more fully with our Borobudur trip."



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Live in Joy, In love,
Even among those who hate.

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