There is a very special Buddha bathing ritual at Sakya Tenphel Ling in Singapore during Vesak day.
Instead of pouring scented water over the statue of A baby Buddha, you pour water over a mirror.
This special shrine is set with a mirror reflecting a statue or painting of Buddha.
One faces the mirror and pour water over the reflection of the Buddha image in the mirror. This is done while reciting a short mantra. Then it’s the turn of the next person in the long queue.
When I first participated in this ritual, it evoked multi level reflections in my mind within that short span of time.
I truly marvel the wisdom and skill of the Buddhist master who designed this ritual. I honestly do not know who designed this ritual….
Anyway, The following are personal reflections and does not represents the formal explanation of this ritual.
The 1st experience about bathing a reflection is surreal. We see reflections in the mirror everyday but we do not interact with these reflections. We understand reflections to be fake. Therefore when I am asked too bath the reflection of a Buddha statue, the sensory experience is sooo unique. The bathing feels real. I am holding a flask of water and pouring it on a mirror. However, it also feel unreal because the object of my attention is a reflection! Imagine soaping your reflection in a shower room and trying to bathe it….
Then within that time, I began to wonder where is Buddha? It is vesak day after all and here I am, trying to bathe Buddha….
The reflection of a Buddha statue or painting looks perfect and clean as it is. I wonder why the trouble to bath it?
Then my monkey mind leap to another concept. The reflection of the Buddha appears when all the conditions are right. And that’s how I end up with bathing that reflection and getting that surreal feeling.
The water used to bathe the mirror contains flower petals and some tiny bits of the petals were left on the mirror by the previous buddha bather.
So while the reflection in the mirror is faultless, my Buddha reflection is faulted by a tiny bit of yellow petal stuck to the mirror. So I poured more water on the surface to get rid of that stain.
I thought to myself, might as well do a good job in cleaning. Since I really do not know how to interact with that reflection at a deeper level. And I know that I will freak out if that reflections starts moving….
As I inched forward to pour more water to wash away that pesky petal, my own reflection appeared in the mirror and partially blocked the reflection of Buddha.
Welcome to Sakya Tenphel Ling. We have the bathing of the ultimate Buddha ritual. Was it the volunteers or was it the public announcement?
Wow!. Ultimate Buddha. That’s my reflection mixed with that of the Buddha.
So so surreal. So Zen..
Back to reality as I sensed the impatient person next in line.
I walked away from the ritual with a mind overloaded with many Buddhist concepts and a surreal experience.