Saturday, June 19, 2010

Nara: The Moment of Truth

"If you think Kyoto is great, Nara is even better!"
--Daniel, a Polish exchange student

Todaiji Temple

Deer in front of Todaiji entrance gate

Close encounters with deer

The "path to enlightenment" was behind the Buddha's butt. One of the wooden support pillars had a small hole in it. According to legend, the hole was the same size as the Buddha's nostril. If you could crawl through, you would be granted eternal wisdom.

Daibutsu Buddha statue

There was a nice ring of truth. The Buddha had to sneeze me out as human snot! Then I would have shown that I was worthy of his knowledge.

I got down on my hands and knees, then shoved myself into the Buddha's nose. The opening was too narrow for me to lie on my stomach. I twisted around onto my left side and used my feet to try to push myself through. Then all motion stopped.

Shit, I was stuck!

First Revelation: Panic

My feet flailed against the floor. I wanted desperately to push myself forward. Unfortunately, I was lying sideways and my shoes couldn't get enough traction into the ground. How could I be so stupid?!

What if it took an emergency crew to get me out? Worse, what if it was covered by the TV news? "Another silly gaijin got stuck in the hole at the Todaiji Temple," a reporter would say. "Once again, we have proof that the Japanese diet is superior to the American diet."

Kasuga Taisha Shrine

Second Revelation: Adapt

I quit using my feet. Needed to use my brain. I wiggled in different directions, to get an idea of how much free space I had. The answer was none. I'm way too big for small holes. This problem happens a lot.

Assessed the situation. Time to check for visibility. I turned my head up to try to look ahead of me. Before I could do it all the way, the back of my head smacked against wood that was laid there in the year 752. Can't move and can't see.

Maybe I could shrug my shoulders to move forward? I tried as hard as I could. Moved about two millimeters. At this rate, Japan would go through ten prime ministers before I got out.

Kokufuji Temple

Third Revelation: Improvise

All I had left were my hands. Correction: make that one hand. When I crawled in, my right hand was at my side. This deep into the hole, my right hand was pinned to my waist. Totally useless!

Had to use the one hand still at my disposal. I felt for the opening, with my hand flopping around like a dying fish. Just banged against more and more walls. Where the hell was the end of the tunnel?

Fortune teller booth at Kasuga Taisha Shrine

Fourth Revelation: Overcome

Finally, I felt my fingers curl around the edge of the opening. I pulled. Nothing. I was really wedged in tight! Come on, I summoned my dance muscles. The muscles that can power me through a whole night of clubbing.

Then I felt my shoulder scrape against the ground. I was moving! I pulled harder, and tried to use my right elbow to give myself an extra push.

My head cleared the hole and sweet sweet air poured into my lungs. Free at last! I kicked away from that wooden womb and crawled into the world totally reborn.

The Enlightened One emerges!