A 40 Year "Retrospective Journey"

“Be good, keep your feet dry,
your eyes open, your heart at peace
and your soul in the joy of Christ.”
Thomas Merton

December 2, 2008


December 2, 1968

Grayston Photo

Thomas Merton visited the ancient ruins of Polonnaruwa on Monday December 2nd, 1968 and wrote about it on Thursday, December 5th. (AJTMpp. 231-236) With another "guest post" Donald Grayston provides the following reflection, and accompanying pictures, regarding this significant day in Thomas Merton's pilgrimage and life. (For the fuller meaning of this event it needs to be read in conjunction with Don's post regarding Merton's visit with Chadral Rinpoche several weeks ago in Dharamsala link here)

I Have Now Seen...
Merton’s time with the great statues of the Buddha at Polonnaruwa, carved out of the living rock, was the high point of his journey. He says that he was “knocked over with a rush of relief and thankfulness at the obvious clarity of the figures,” “jerked clean out of the habitual half-tied vision of things” (p. 233).

Grayston Photo

Merton speaks of his Asian pilgrimage as having come clear and purified itself. “I mean, I know and have seen what I was obscurely looking for. I don't know what else remains but I have now seen and have pierced through the surface and have got beyond the shadow and the disguise. This is Asia in its purity ….” (p. 236).

Grayston Photo

Emptiness and Compassion
By experiencing the union of “emptiness” and “compassion,” Merton had reached what Buddhists would call the first level (there are nine more) of bodhisattvahood—the bodhisattva being the realized human being who, having been enlightened, postpones his enjoyment of Nirvana until all other beings can join him or her in that enlightened state.
With thanks to Don Grayston... Rob
"I don't know when in my life I have ever had such a sense of beauty and spiritual validity running together in one aesthetic illumination."
Thomas Merton on Polonnaruwa

1 comment:

Reclining buddha said...

Very informative post. Statue of Buddha is sited at Polonnaruwa. It is located at a distance of 216 km from the city of Colombo and also to the south east of Anuradhapura. You can see Gal Vihare, Sculpture of Great King Parakramabahu, Nelum Pokuna, The Vatadage, Atadage, Ran Kot Vehera, Pabulu Vehera, Potgul Vihara.