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My apologies to any followers of my photo blog who will see this post there as well today. That blog is normally photos only, but today I had to tell a story to explain my picture, and I knew I wanted to share that story here, too.

The photo challenge this week was to use the Rule of Thirds (and the bokeh effect, if possible) to capture an up-close view of something or someone. I try to always stick to a travel theme on both blogs, so I wandered my house this afternoon in search of a travel memento that I could experiment with.

This beautiful Buddha head is from Lhasa, Tibet, and his journey home to me was a long and arduous one. I found him initially in a small store behind Barkhor Square, on the buzzing circular path that is part of the kora (circumambulation) around the Jokhang Temple. He is quite heavy and as I always travel with only a carry-on bag or backpack, I knew I could not get him home with me. I bought him anyway and scribbled my name and address on a scrap of paper to have him shipped, feeling all along that there was a very good chance that I’d never see him again. As minimal protection, I did take the name and email address of a young woman in the shop who spoke a bit of English.


I returned home a week or so later and then many months passed. Finally, one day an enormous package arrived for me. Its sides had caved in, the tape was snarled or completely missing in spots, and there were stamps marching across nearly the whole surface. The head was made of metal; what real damage could be done, I thought hopefully? Alas, I removed the Buddha head from its nest of packaging, and as soon as I moved to place him on a table, I heard a loud rattling sound. Something had clearly broken inside.

In a very non-Buddhist mood, I wrote to the young woman and (a tiny bit) crankily told her about the ridiculously long wait and the fact that my purchase was damaged as well. Her response (below) was so touching and beautiful that I’ve kept it forever as a reminder of both the dear, sweet Tibetan people and the need to expect the best of others.

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  “I understand that you worry about it , for me, i hope you trust me , even you come to our store by yourself , but we Tibetan never cheat our friends from other country , and also what you bought is the Buddha head! 

   It is good to know that you got it! Please don’t worry about that , the sounds from inside are some barley beads and prayers , because this Buddha head has been blessed before and worshipped by pilgrims many years ago , the new Buddha head is empty and nothing inside , if we want to invite a Buddha head at home, we must bring it to the Old temple and invite a Lama to put the Barley beads and prayers inside ,even the dry butter which has been offered to the Buddha Shakyamuni as offerings inside, then the Buddha is the real and powerful Buddha head which can protect us ! 

   If you look the bottom carefully , you can see the marks of fixing the bottom when the Lama finish blessing the Buddha head , it is our traditon to put things inside the Buddha and Buddha head , or else it is just the statue ,not the Holy Buddha !”

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So what I have is better than a mere statue or sculpture; I have “the real and powerful Buddha head”! He occupies the front table in my entrance so that I pass him dozens of times a day, and he greets each and every visitor to our home. Picking him up today and hearing the rattle of barley beads and prayers inside made my day a little brighter.