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Around The Sun: Cooperation With The Buddha

Steve Harrison has his hotel purified by Buddhist monks.

The official religion of Cambodia is Buddhism, a striving for a better way of living.

Buddha “the enlightened one” Siddhartha Gautama was born in about 623 BC to a royal couple of noble lineage, the Sakyas, who lived in the Himalayas. To this day the original town is not known, nor the lineage. Siddhartha was a very special child, gentle and loving, and quite unspoilt by all the palace luxuries that where showered upon him. At sixteen he married a princess and the young couple stayed within the confines of the palace, blissfully unaware of the world outside.

In any proper fable they would have lived happily ever after and that would have been the end of it. But this story had a different ending and all because the young man went for a ride. He and his horse strayed beyond the grounds of the palace and there for the first time he came face to face with reality, an experience that was to revolutionise his whole world and influence mankind for generations to come. The story reveals that he saw four things: a Hindu priest, a sick man, a beggar and a corpse. Horrified, he decided to give up his luxurious life and seek to alleviate the worlds suffering.

When he was 29 he left his wife and newborn son, whom he knew would be well cared for. He went away, accompanied by a faithful groom, abandoning all that was familiar. With him also went four guardians of the world, each holding a horse's hoof to muffle the sound of galloping and avoid discovery. in his hand one of the horses hooves to muffle the noise of galloping and so avoid discovery. This event became known as "the great renunciation".

He rode until he found a resting place in the forest. There he cut off his long hair with one stroke of his sword, symbolising the renunciation of the world. For six years he lived the life of an ascetic, studying Hindu teaching and subduing all bodily wants. Indeed so rigorous was his self denial that he almost died. Despite this physical mortification, he was not attaining his spiritual goal of self-enlightenment and at last he tried a different course. Feeding and clothing himself he continued to meditate but this time in a state of reasonable comfort. And so finally he attained his ends. One night as he was seated under a Bohdi tree on the banks of the river in Bodh-gaya his mind became perfectly clear of evil thoughts. The innermost nature of all things was revealed to him. He had reached Enlightenment. Nirvana.

Then it started to rain. A tropical downpour cascaded from the heavens. The Enlightened One failed to notice this. A snake called Mucilinda came to his rescue, coiling itself into a seat for the Buddha, its multiple heads forming an umbrella. In Khmer art the Buddha is often depicted in this situation.

Buddha was thirty five when he attained enlightenment. From then on, for the next forty five years, he travelled far and wide, tirelessly devoting his time to reading and preaching. He lived simply with the disciples that were joining him in increasing numbers. With love in his heart and infinite compassion for the sorrows of the world, he led a life of total self sacrifice in his efforts to guide people into the way of truth as he saw it.

In 543, at the age of 80, surrounded by many followers, he died. Legend has it that surrounding trees burst into flower to honour him.

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So after a year in our hotel - a year of bottle smashing, door breaking, gun toting, robbing, fighting, and other unsavoury incidents - we set out to appease the gods of Cambodia. We felt this would make out staff happier.

A mini temple, with effigies of Buddha, was set up in the foyer. Joss sticks were lit. Fruit and drinks were set out in front of the temple.

We called in two monks. For US$10 they drove out evil spirits, demons and bad karma from both the bar and the rest of the hotel. We sat prostrate before them, whilst they chanted their heads off in perfect pitch and harmony. Their version of holy water was sprinkled on us, reminding me of bath night as a kid. Small fragrant white flowers were placed in water, then this water was sprinkled over our heads.

One of the monks fastened a scarlet thread around my right wrist. This was to be worn at all times. Worn until it fell off. Good luck would come to me in abundance.

The monks finally lit incense in burners, going around to smoke out evil from every nook and cranny.

Our staff believed in all these procedures. So naturally they worked.

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