Day 4 at Borbodour: We all awoke this morning at 4:00 AM. and met on the open lawn of the Manahora. Again we chanted and headed to the temple in the dark. This time I noticed that Venus was huge on the horizon, nearly half as big as the moon. This time we stopped to do blessings with the Elephants on the way, and I spent some time in ritual with the huge creatures and was very moved. Many powerful changes are taking place within me, spiritual changes that I can’t easily share with friends. I am definitely on a spiritual journey, and it is becoming clear that I am headed somewhere. I am also making great connections toward my mission of world peace, like pieces of a giant puzzle falling into place, each in their own time and proper place. This time as I enter the temple, I am more aware of what to expect, and as a result, I can go deeper into the mystery. The temple carvings now easily fade into a misty fog as their depictions reveal the beliefs and lifestyle of people long ago. I incorporate my own spiritual path into the mix as I walk the narrow corridors of the temple, acknowledging the directions and elements as I cast a giant circle in my own tradition. After the work within the temple, guided by Lama Ganchen, We return to the Manahora, for four hours of Buddhist practice.

I’m coming to love the wonderful melodic chants, and the occasional insertion of low throaty singing as Lama or monk, include their blessings. After all is done, it is announced that Lama Ganchen has arrainged a special treat for us all, a horse carriage trip to another ancient temple about 10 miles away. The trip by carriage was quite unique, as the people on Java don’t stay on their own side of the road. Just imagine riding in a small horse cart that holds 2 or 3 people and having trucks and motorcycles and many other unique forms of transportation, like motorcycles pulling trailers, with bamboo axles, and homemade motorized contraptions that are indescribable in modern terms, coming at you head on. One really learns quite quickly to “go with the flow”, and it’s really easy to see the importance of believing in a higher power here. Myself and Dr. Meyerhof are in the cart behind Lama Ganchen, with several dozen carts of monks and others following us. I’m dressed in white with black Celtic artwork, and the Lama is in gold and crimson, and people on the streets wave at the sight, acknowledging us as a special spiritual entourage as we pass by. Java is struggling with poverty, and many are suffering from the effects of volcanic eruption. We were told that 250,000 people were impacted by the thermal blast and volcanic ash. There are areas where trees and bamboo are snapped off at the ground, and the thermals caused by the event are still causing torrential rains. We drove through small towns and villages with rice fields and crumbling tile roofed houses.

Almost every dwelling has some kind of business operating from it, from boiling pots of local plants and meat, to stacks of coconuts or firewood. Cleaver handicrafts made from discarded materials or carved from local woods, hang everywhere, and batik shirts, scarves, and fearsome masks, dominate the streets. For me, the resiliency of the people is a powerful testament to their ability to make the most of what’s available, and mist striking are the number of smiling faces in the midst of such an environment. When we arrive at our destination, I see before us a several story square monument, with a steep stone stairway up the side to a small dark opening. As we disembark from our carriages, children and young adults pile on us with handfuls of tiny statues and puppets, and scarves, yelling out prices which spiral downward in literally seconds. I am amazed at the inflation and currency exchange here, with a simple necklace of seeds going for 20,000 Rupees, and a t shirt for 50,000. And yet, the cost of labor and goods is incredibly cheap by US standards. Our group moves to the temple, pausing to pose halfway up the entry stairway for photos, and local Buddhists come forward to bow before the presence of the Lama. We then start up the remainder of the stairs, and are handed 3 candles each to light, as offerings to the Buddha and other deities, and I enter the temple into the darkness. Once inside, there is such a powerful feeling of sacredness and antiquity as a large stone statue of the Buddha greets us. There are also two other huge statues, located to the left and the right of the Buddha, and dozens of flickering candles cast an eerie light at their base. Bouquets of flowers grace the statues, and typical fruits sit upon the altar. I lite my candles one at a time, offering prayers for peace, human rights, and my Pagan community, and then exited the temple to explore the wares of the local people.

I moved past the cheap replicas of the temple I had just visited, and the Buddha statues of every shape, material, and size, and dug through a dusty pile of old relics in the back of a rickety house turned into a store for the day, looking for something unique and more to my style and interests. And far in the back, behind and below piles of obviously unpopular or discarded goods, I found a small delicately carved statue of local stone, a treasure (at least from my point of view) likely carved by some country dweller, long ago. It was a crouching female figure, with a pregnant belly, and a lions head, grinning with a smile that is immortalized in many of the Javanese masks. An island fertility Goddess, no longer in vogue with the introduction of Islam and Christianity, discarded as a relic of the past. I bought it without even having to haggle, as the shopkeeper seemed puzzled that I would even have an interest in it at all. And I will give it an honorable place to rest on my altar at home. After some more shopping and a quick visit to a local monastery, we all boarded our carriages and made our way back to Borbordour, exhausted and ready for sleep, to be fully present and awake for our work in the temple at sunrise.