I am not sure that Buddhism will ever again see the kind of glory that it saw in the heyday of the Silk Road. And unfortunately some of the most spectacular and humbling sites from that era have been destroyed. The most recent of these is the Buddhas of Bamiyan that were destroyed by the Taliban in March of 2001.
Yet throughout Asia there are astonishing places that show a reverence and devotion to the Buddha that make one take pause and reflect on the enormity of the Buddha’s accomplishment and the subsequent reverence for that accomplishment. There are many of these remote and remarkable sites. There are the Ajanta Caves in India. There are the Caves of Dunhuang in China. And there are the Mysterious Caves of Mustang (pronounced “moo-STAHNG”) in Nepal. In all of these places remote mountain caves are the repositories of beautiful Buddhist art that bows to the great accomplishment of the Buddha, his reverence for life, and his compassion for all beings.
In the West we live in a secular society. We do not like to bow to the accomplishments of greater beings. We do not like to bow at all.
But what the Buddha did was enormous. It is beyond our greatest comprehension. Our opinions and ideology in the face of that accomplishment are trivial, like mice nipping at the heels of great elephants.
I have been to so many retreats where people of arrogance and haughtiness question the teachings of the Buddha. They think that their opinions are greater than what the Buddha experienced directly.
I think this is where we can all use a lesson in humility. Do we really think that we know more than the Buddha? Of course, it is very un-Buddhist to accept doctrine simply because someone tells us. We have to see it for ourselves. But the Buddha taught a path that does just that. He taught a way of living that lets us see. And if we are diligent enough and sincere enough then we can see what he saw. That is the transcendent, universal nature of existence.
The path of laziness is to bow to our opinions, to bow to our arrogance, and to bow to our self-absorption. The path of wisdom is to bow to our ignorance, to selflessly and diligently follow the path that the Buddha taught, and to realize it for ourselves. This is the path of compassion, love, and wisdom.