In 2013, Andrew and I traveled to Thailand to visit his brother. One of the things I was excited for was to experience a real Thai temple. I had been mesmerized by photographs.
I was shocked to discover that there weren’t just a few temples. There was one on every corner. Each one more splendid and ornate than the last. Each one with a giant gold Buddha. So much so, that it became our running joke ... if we got separated, we would meet at the giant gold Buddha.
Many of the Buddhas were covered in tiny squares of gold leaf. Turns out, that’s a traditional way of making an offering.
Along with flowers, incense and candles, gold leaf is sold at temples and sacred shrines of all sorts throughout Thailand. Pounded by hand into extremely thin sheets, it's cut into small squares and placed inside a folded piece of paper.
Faithful visitors can make a donation, receive a packet or two and place the piece of leaf onto a sacred image of one type or another as a way of offering, or making a wish.
So as you gaze at the statue, not only are you seeing a representation of the divine, you are seeing thousands of wishes and prayers of people here on earth. Across the globe. Across time. Everything collapses. And we are one.
I love spiritual iconography of all kinds, but I do have a special affinity for the Thai Buddha. I do not often have a visceral experience of that Oneness. But I did then.