Golden Rock at sunset is a sight to behold in Myanmar (Burma). On 28 March 2015 I saw many other similar granite rocks nearby but this one happens to be precariously sitting on top of another granite and only this is the one that has been plastered with gold leaves. I was tempted to buy one at the officially fixed price from the nearby post office. Thousands of worshipers continue to stick gold leaves on it and seek blessings from Buddha. They staunchly believe that the rock is held in that delicate position by a relic of Buddha’s hair that was brought from Sri Lanka.
The stunning sight leaves little scope for one not to accept this. Looking up at it I felt that the solid gold was falling on me. Instinctively I raised my hand and held it.
My guide confirmed his absolute faith that the Golden Rock actually floats above the rock underneath and that the gap between the two is widening as depicted in the painting I saw in the adjacent museum.
Only true believers can see the gap, he stressed. I lay down under the rock to see it; but no luck. Naturally it would not show in the forbidden picture I took.
Probably you know already, only men are allowed to go near it. The reason, I thought, could be that if a woman touched the rock, it might tumble down – so potent is a woman’s spirituality!
This extraordinary phenomenon left me wonder struck with a gnawing question: “What came first, the rock or Buddha?”
Surely the rock was there in its natural primal form before Buddha. One can see thousands of similar or even more spectacular geological formations all over the world. Rocks perched on tall sharp pinnacles, rock arches carved by wind and water, deep canyons and breath-taking caves but with one vital difference: Buddha’s followers have not reached them yet with one of his relics!
Seeing all this I felt that religion in Myanmar literally stole every extraordinary natural phenomenon in the country and made it its own. Not too far from the Golden Rock, I climbed along with numerous devotees and tourists a steep volcanic extrusion, a natural lava plug sticking out in the middle of the vast plain. The small flat top has been covered with a monastery and many stupas. What a stunning view of the countryside around; but religion has stolen the small top and disfigured it with messy concrete.
Then I realized that all other religions all over the world have overpowered and grabbed many of the most beautiful natural spots and assumed ownership in the name of God or some prophet affixing to them some man-made miraculous legend. Mistakenly they impress upon people’s mind that their religion and their gods are above nature.
The following day I visited the ruins of a consortium of stupas on the shore of the famous charming Lake Inle. I was ecstatically elated when I saw trees piercing through massive stupas: Nature demonstrating its spontaneous power over religions.
Making the nature our focus of worship and responsibility will surely save not only our souls and the environment but also killing people in the name of God.
(Photos by Karin Nyffenegger, Geneva)