This is the ubiquitous Vietnamese Schoolgirl. Every city in Vietnam from Chau Doc to Saigon to Da Nang to Hanoi, they wear these Ao Dai and can be seen coming and going to University. There is something exotic about these girls in these long dresses. They cover them from neck to ankle and they are so waif like. It’s pure feminine. Hard to forget. And the little girls going to and from school are adorable as well.
Namo Tassa Bhagavato Arahato Sammasambuddhassa
The above is Pali. The language of Siddhartha Shakyamuni the Buddha. It means:
Homage to the Exhalted One; Perfectly enlightened by Himself
Buddhists will chant this three times while bowing three times when they enter a Buddhist Temple. It’s not so much worshipping of the Buddha as it is paying homage to him for passing on the way. The Middle Path. The path to Nirvana. The escape from the cycle of suffering.
I had been looking for a painting of Buddha for a year. Something that struck me as true. I think that I’ve been too heavily influenced by my time in Cambodia. This Buddha has a strong Khmer influence. The ears. The hair. It even has a strong resemblence to Jayavarman VII who is known as the Buddhist King. This painting is the origin of the tattoo on my left shoulder.
This painting is the Cham interpretation of the Apsara. It has a cosmic feel about it. I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. It was as if she were floating above in Mount Meru watching us as we mortals toiled away our days on this earth.
Buddha and the adoring Nun
This painting is totally taboo in Buddhist culture. A female is not supposed to touch the Buddha nor should a female touch a Monk. Yet, the portrayal of the act in this painting speaks to me of a devotion and a love so deep as to make defiance of tradition and custom not only possible but eminently obligatory.
The first three paintings I purchased in Hoi An, Vietnam. Hoi An is one of the oldest port cities in all of Asia. Marco Polo and Genghis Khan both visited this city. European, Chinese, Japanese merchants all traded their wares at this port. Travelers from all over Asia, Europe and the Middle East stopped over on their way to the markets of the world.
I picked up the fourth painting in Saigon in the backpacker district around Pham Ngu Lao area. This area has many of these art shops. The artists here will paint anything for you. All you need do is give them a picture. They’re quite talented young people.