My Buddhist Fortune

posted by Kaitlyn Weber

My Buddhist fortune, roughly translated from Khmer: A man wished to become the next Buddha. He traveled to the water in order to receive enlightenment, but enlightenment was not there. Buddha and his followers came to the water and the man lay down his body so they could safely cross. Only after this act was the man able to achieve enlightenment. I too would achieve enlightenment. This is what my fortune revealed.

To learn this fortune, I had to first travel to Angkor Wat, a temple with famed beauty, which did not disappoint. My tour began and I rapidly snapped photos of every carving, statue and architectural feature. The history also drew me in instantly. Built in the 12th century for the Hindu god Vishnu, the temple has since withstood civil war, riots, and a change in religious orientation.

As our temple tour turned another corner we encountered the men who held the prophecy of my enlightenment. They sat cross-legged on a rug, draped in clean white fabric. My guide asked if I wished to be blessed by the men, who I later learned were not monks but rather assistants to the monks, and I instantly accepted. One of the men reached for my hand and instructed me through sign language to lay my palm flat in front of his. He tied a red string around my wrist and moved his hands three times over the length of my hand. This action, I was told, was meant to expel all bad things and welcome in the good.

When I thought we had completed our spiritual journey for the day, my guide asked if I wished to learn my fortune. I again accepted. Seeing my eagerness, he instantly offered a warning. “They are not all good.” I decided to face the odds, knowing I had no belief in the accuracy of the outcome. I was handed a bundle of tethered cards and was told to place them on my head and to wish for a good fortune. Feeling slightly silly, yet getting more immersed in the experience, I closed my eyes and began to pray. As my eyes remained tightly shut my heart began to race, my palms began to sweat and the prospect of a bad fortune filled me with mind-numbing fear. I prayed harder. When the time was right I took the small wooden stick attached to the cards and placed it between them. My fate was sealed.

My guide took the cards from atop my head and began to read silently to himself. He glanced up at me, eyes filled with sympathy and whispered, “oh.” It was over. My fortune was foul and there was no changing it. I took in a large breath of damp air and found myself unable to let it out. He began to decipher the elegant Khmer script, and revealed my story. Still showing no signs of a smile, he concluded and handed the cards back to the men on the rug. “Your fortune,” he said, “is very, very good.” I exhaled.

New found spirituality coursed through my veins and I thirsted for more. The tour continued and crouching through a narrow stone doorway I found myself in an unspectacular, narrow room. My guide informed me that in this small stone enclosure my deepest troubles could be erased. We retreated to opposite sides of the wall and cleared our minds of everything but the problems that plagued us. With my back against the wall and my head down, I raised my fist to the very center of my chest and gently beat three times to the rhythm of my heart. The ensuing sound filled the tight space with an echoing BOOM, BOOM, BOOM. I was consumed by the power of the sound and felt a sense of weightlessness wash over me. I floated around the room with the echoes of my chest and all thought of the trouble I had spent minutes repeating in my head was gone.

Within the crumbling walls of an ancient temple I experienced moments of absolute clarity. I let go of every preconceived fear or doubt and for the first time allowed a spiritual experience to overtake me. Though my knowledge of Buddhism is basic at best, I did not need religious background to know I had experienced a spiritual awakening that few have, but all should. I walked away from Angkor Wat with a camera full of stunning pictures, a wealth of historical understanding, and a smile on my face. I had not yet achieved enlightenment, but I had found peace, if only temporarily

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