Eight is a special number in Buddhism, most notably used to refer to the Eightfold Path. This lotus flower has eight petals on both the inside and outside, and 64 petals (eight x eight) in the middle. Different colors of lotus blossoms have their own meanings, and a purple lotus is symbolic of spirituality and mysticism. Purple lotus flowers are not as commonly depicted as other colors like pink and white, and are traditionally associated with esoteric Buddhism. This association of purple and spirituality is also common in color theory, because it is a combination of both soothing (blue) and stimulating (red), and promotes inner reflection. It also happens to be my favorite color.
Would you like to see other lotus colors & designs?
Meditation by a waterfall is not only a peaceful and picturesque way to meditate, but the sound of the water itself is one traditional way to enter Samādhi. It is a powerful way to still the mind. The most renown figure to enter Samādhi through this method, and therein gain the ability to “hear the cries of the world,” is Guanyin (观音). The Śūraṅgama Sūtra describes how she disassociates herself from the sense of hearing, and thus gains mastery over it.
“I began with a practice based on the enlightenment nature of hearing. First I redirected my hearing inward in order to enter the current of the sages. Then external sounds disappeared. With the direction of my hearing reversed and with sounds stilled, both sounds and silence cease to arise . . . . Coming into being and ceasing to be themselves ceased to be. Then the ultimate stillness was revealed . . . . All of a sudden I transcended the worlds of ordinary beings, and I also transcended the worlds of beings who have transcended the ordinary worlds. Everything in the ten directions was fully illuminated, and . . . . I was then able to go to all lands and appear in thirty-two forms that respond to what beings require.”
Many other Buddhists have followed this example throughout the centuries, particularly within Chan Buddhism / Zen Buddhism (禅). This video clip shows one example at Dharma Drum Mountain (法鼓山), a monastery in Taiwan, and their connection to the nearby streams. Look for a mention of Guanyin / Avalokiteśvara around 13 minutes in:
Inside the Grand Palace of Bangkok, Thailand, the most sacred Buddhist temple in the country gleams in the mid-morning sunlight. On the left is the library Phra Mondop, and behind it is the Royal Pantheon Prasat Phra Thep Bidorn. One of the Twelve Small Open Pavilions is on the right.
When possible, I like taking photos with both interesting clouds foregrounds, ideally with a sense of connection between the two. During post-production, I remember how it felt to be at that place when I took the photo, and imbibe that energy into the final photo. The awe of discovery. The profoundness of the spiritual. The hot sun on my skin on a breeze-less day. The smell of the nearby river and market. The stunningly beautiful and grandiose palace grounds. The intense reverence of the Thai people (and many foreigners) for this special place. My increased respect for the generations of Thai royals, as I learned more about them in the museum exhibits. I felt very uplifted that day, in multiple ways.
These memories remain fresh, even for a photo taken 6 years ago. I guess you could say that my memory hasn’t gotten cloudy ;D
Do your photos also bring back such strong memories?
Here are a few of my other favorite cloud photos from previous entries – click to see a larger view and read more:
Located on a small island not far from Hiroshima, Miyajima seems worlds away from the modern concrete and steel grid of Hiroshima. One can spend hours leisurely winding through the peaceful streets surrounded by traditional style buildings and historical sites. Two such places can be seen on the horizon from this scenic overlook – Gojunoto Pagoda and Senjokaku Shrine.
Although it was overcast and rainy for part of the day that I was there, the sun did come out a little and bask the village in its warmth. The aptly nicknamed “shrine island” has a very cozy feel to it, aided by the rolling hills next to the beautiful sea, the traditional architecture, multiple shrines and temples within easy walking distance, and even plentiful tame and friendly deer roaming the streets.
On a peaceful day in Wuhan, China, the still waters of a pond perfectly reflect the many arches of a bridge. In the shallow parts of the pond there are so many lotus plants growing that the lotus leaves completely cover the water. A few pink lotus blossoms rise up proud and strong, transcending the pond and the canopy of leaves, but not the scene itself. The same still waters that allow for such a nice reflection are also what allows the thin stem of the lotus to grow straight up, unhindered by currents.
Are the conditions for inner reflections the same as that which we need to fully bloom?
Here are a few of my other favorite reflection photos from previous entries – click to see a larger view and read more:
This watercolor painting illustrates the glow of a temple light up in Kyoto, Japan. Arrays of lights shine up onto the multi-colored leaves of the trees and upon the various buildings on the temple grounds. This view is from Kiyomizu-dera, looking up at the surrounding mountains towards a small part of the temple near the mountain peaks. The landscape feels otherworldly, and although logic knows that there are hidden lights shining on the trees, it seems as if the light is radiating out of the trees themselves – perhaps as if an inner light was illuminating the landscape and bringing it to life. Although the technique of the light show is modern, the scene before me felt quite ancient and as timeless and the changing seasons.
Japan celebrates the richness of each season in a way that is unique amongst the countries I’ve visited thus far. Even in this age of jet-imported fresh foods from half-way around the world, the Japanese still retain an emphasis on what is local, seasonal, and fresh – the uniqueness and beauty of what is right in front of them at the moment. The same is true for the arts – it is often apparent which season is depicted in each Japanese painting, as that momentary fleeting beauty is represented. It’s a celebration of impermanence, and of being present and living in the moment. Where else do people, as an entire society, go out together just to see the autumn leaves? Seeing Kyoto that November gave me the most appreciation for the potential benefits of having four seasons that I’ve ever had, being a woman of the tropics at heart.
Are there other parts of the world that have such autumn light ups? Let me know in the comments!
On a crisp autumn night in Kyoto, Japan, the full moon shines down on Kiyomizu Temple (清水寺). The name of the temple “pure water” comes from a nearby waterfall. This UNESCO World Heritage Site was founded in 798 during the early Heian Period, and reconstructed in 1633 without a single nail. The sense of history and majesty of the place come alive during the special night temple light-ups that occur during certain times of the year.
Near the giant Buddha at Le Shan in Sichuan, China, a tiny pavilion clings to the steep mountainside, overlooking the expansive river below. Part of the charm of China is the dotting of the mountainous landscape with these pavilions and temples that are difficult to reach, and must have been even harder to build. The location gives them a sense of majesty and separation from the mundane world, often seeming as otherworldly and spiritual as the mists enveloping them.
When I think of “wanderlust” images of such mysterious and off-the-beaten-path places spring to mind. To me, wanderlust embodies the spirit of adventure and the quest for the unknown. Spirituality and a yearning the unknown are closely linked, and so a small often overlooked part at a Buddhist historical site seemed appropriate for this challenge.
Inspired by my Illuminating Lotus photo, but with a very different feel from my similarly-inspired Rainbow Etching Lotus, this art piece has a glow that radiates outward. Of the three, this one seems the most otherworldly and mysterious, akin to a latent inner nature just waiting to shine.
High on a mountain top overlooking Chiang Mai, Thailand, a the allure of a golden temple inspires many people to hike up to it. Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep (วัดพระธาตุดอยสุเทพ) is a dazzling sight to behold – full of light and color. A line of golden buddhas (standing, laying, and sitting in lotus position) shimmer in front of a reflective wall, showing a clear image of the temple in the reflection.
The illusion of this image is that what is “beyond” is really just behind the viewer. The “beyond” is not always as far off as it appears, or even where it appears to be, but rather is influenced by our perception of it.
What in your life once seemed beyond you at the time, that you later realized was accessible?