Stairway to Heaven
It was around four thirty in the afternoon and I was just about templed out.
Sitting in an ’83 Toyota Camry, watching the forest trees wiz by in a blur of dark green interspersed with glimpses of light, I mentally recalled my checklist of things done during our whirlwind visit to the
Watch the sun slowly inch its way above the Angkor Wat complex from the Central Sanctuary of Phnom Bakheng.... Check.
Ride a hot-air balloon to get an aerial shot of Angkor Wat emerging from the forest …… Check.
Pay homage to the Creator at the Gallery of a Thousand Buddhas...... Check.
Thump chest and hear the resonance in the Hall of Echoes… Check.
Strike a graceful pose in the Hall of Dancers at Preah Khan ….. Check.
Pass through the Gate of the Dead where a jumble of gods and demons stick out of the soil like victims of a horrific cosmic pile-up.…Check.
Visit Ta Prohm, home of the twisted and convoluted Tomb Raider tree… Check.
We had taken enough pictures to fill 2 memory chips, eavesdropped on numerous guided tours, and logged enough miles to get to
Two days later and I felt like a day-old birthday balloon slowly losing air. Something was missing. Maybe it was over anticipation. The mythical image that I had sketched of
All in all, a wonderful experience but still, something was missing. I was still unfulfilled.
Our patient driver must have noted our slow, inevitable descent into catatonia.
“It is dripping with green and crowned with trees, but is still supreme over the forest. It..shows the development of a new spirit in the people, the growth of good taste.”
Ta Keo is one of the great temple-mountains at
I grunted and groaned my way to the top. Ta Keo is a structured pyramid conforming to the usual rule of proportional reduction. As I got closer to the peak, the steps grew exceptionally narrow and muscle-punishingly steep. At one point, I was inching my way up on my hands and knees like a supplicant on pilgrimage. I reached the central tower, gingerly turned around and gasped. The sun was just beginning its descent into night - its brilliant red, orange and yellow hues setting the giant treetops before me afire.
I spent another 20 minutes in quiet contemplation, soaking up the grandeur of the panoramic view. I do not recall the exact thoughts running through my head during that time. I do know that I rediscovered my inner center there, listening to the distinctive song of the cicadas and reflecting on the faith which inspires ordinary people to create extraordinary pieces of work as an expression of their devotion to a higher being. The memory of my laborious ascent up this great, unfinished temple-mountain now serves to remind me that my life is a work in progress, constantly striving for self-knowledge and unity of being.