A pil­grim’s jour­ney to the top

A pre­car­i­ously perched golden rock which de­fies grav­ity draws thou­sands of pil­grims ev­ery year.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Dear Thelma - Tsel­vas@thes­tar.com.my T. Selva

A GI­ANT boul­der known as the Golden Rock is perched pre­car­i­ously 1,100m above sea level and looks like it may tum­ble down the moun­tain any mo­ment.

For Bud­dhist pil­grims, the Kyaik­tiyo Pagoda in Myan­mar is a sa­cred site be­cause the mono­lith is bal­anced on a sin­gle strand of Bud­dha’s hair which pre­vents it from fall­ing down.

I made a trip to the mys­te­ri­ous gran­ite rock 210km from Yangon re­cently af­ter its vi­sion ap­peared sev­eral times in my dreams. Spir­i­tual seek­ers in­ter­pret it as my spir­i­tual call­ing.

Af­ter a short prayer in my hotel room in Yangon, I started out on a scenic four-hour drive ac­com­pa­nied by my tour guide Tun Lin. We headed to Kin Pun, the base town of Mount Kyaik­tiyo.

Upon ar­rival, I boarded an open truck. There were monks on board too. It was a 45-minute drive up the steep moun­tain. I sat in the driver’s cabin rather than the back of the truck, to min­imise the im­pact of jolts along the rough jour­ney.

There were screams from the pas­sen­gers at the back as the driver ma­noeu­vred the sharp hair­pin bends on the moun­tain path.

We reached the peak safely de­spite the rain, strong winds and re­duced vis­i­bil­ity caused by the fog and Cy­clone Mora that hit Myan­mar and Bangladesh early this month.

I rushed off to buy a rain­coat as a porter stepped for­ward and of­fered to carry my lug­gage to the Moun­tain Top hotel, which was 20 min­utes away.

It was off-peak sea­son and there were over 50 vis­i­tors at the moun­tain-top. The Golden Rock was not eas­ily vis­i­ble due to the fog. The pil­grim­age site at­tracts over 12,000 peo­ple daily be­tween the months of Novem­ber and March.

The fol­low­ing day, I woke up at 5am. It was 16 de­grees Cel­sius. I tuned my mind, body and spirit with a silent prayer and climbed bare­foot over 250 steps, stop­ping only to give alms to monks lin­ing the route.

My jour­ney was not smooth be­cause it was cold, rain­ing and vis­i­bil­ity was down to 20m. I slipped and fell a few times.

The pas­sage is sup­posed to be a re­flec­tion of the life of a pil­grim and how com­fort­able the jour­ney is de­pends on the emo­tional bag­gage he or she is car­ry­ing.

Each step is also sup­posed to tell a story of the in­di­vid­ual’s good or bad karma and his bid to seek mercy by mak­ing the climb.

As I ap­proached the Golden Rock, I could hear chants from an en­clo­sure nearby and goose pim­ples cov­ered my body when I fi­nally reached the rock, which mea­sured seven me­ters in height. I stood in awe be­fore the rock.

Later, I ap­proached the counter and bought a gold leaf, a bronze bell and of­fer­ings of cooked rice to per­form my rit­ual at the grounds.

How­ever, due to the rain and strong winds, the small bridge which con­nects to the rock was closed.

Tun Lin re­minded me to make a wish at the rock be­cause it is highly likely to be ful­filled. Many peo­ple have shared sto­ries of their ex­pe­ri­ences.

Since I could not ful­fil my wish to add a gold leaf on the rock, I said a prayer and dropped it into a do­na­tion box. Hope­fully, the site com­mit­tee will do it on my be­half later.

I placed the of­fer­ings on a dais for good karma and wrote my wish on a bell and tied it to the fence. It is said that each time the bell chimes, the sound will carry my mes­sage to the Almighty.

My next chal­lenge was to get a clear shot of the rock which was shrouded in thick mist.

I waited and waited for an op­por­tune mo­ment. There were pre­cious sec­onds when the mist cleared, en­abling me to take a few snaps of the glow­ing rock.

The story associated with the Golden Rock is that Bud­dha, on one of his many vis­its, gave a strand of his hair to a her­mit known as Taik Tha, who then tucked it in a tuft of hair on his head.

The her­mit later gave the strand to the king with a wish that the hair be en­shrined in a boul­der shaped like the her­mit’s head. The king later found the rock at the bot­tom of the sea and placed it at Kyaik­tiyo and built a stupa where the strand was pre­served.

I spent hours gaz­ing at the rock from sev­eral view­points. I feasted my eyes on its amaz­ing and ma­jes­tic glow which vi­brated en­ergy. It gave me strength and the mes­sage I got was: be strong and solid like the Golden Rock.

I re­turned home filled with re­newed en­ergy. I felt a deep sense of ac­com­plish­ment in my soul.

I am de­ter­mined to re­turn to the holy site soon to show my ap­pre­ci­a­tion.

T. Selva is the au­thor of the Vasthu Sas­tra Guide and the first dis­ci­ple of 7th-gen­er­a­tion Vasthu Sas­tra mas­ter Yu­varaj Sowma from Chen­nai, In­dia.

You can fol­low him on twit­ter at @tsel­vas and write to him at tsel­vas@thes­tar.com.my. This column ap­pears on the last Sun­day of ev­ery month.

The Golden Rock is perched pre­car­i­ously on the edge of a cliff in Mount Kyaik­tiyo, Myan­mar. — Pho­tos: T. SELVA/The Star

Pil­grims ar­riv­ing at the grounds of the Golden Rock.

Monks lin­ing the pas­sage to the Golden Rock, seek­ing alms.

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