The Marvel of the Dambulla Buddhist Caves, Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka has exceeded all of the expectations I had when we embarked on this Buddhist pilgrimage.
Dambulla is, without a doubt, the most amazing cave temple complex in Sri Lanka.
I felt my heart thumping faster, and my spirit felt like a child opening a treasure trove.
There are more than 80 documented caves in the surrounding area.
There are a total of 153 Buddha statues, three statues of Sri Lankan kings and four statues of Gods and Goddesses.
Dambulla is the largest and best-preserved cave temple complex in Sri Lanka.
Some of the Rock Temples date back to the First Century BC.
The caves of Dambulla sheltered King Walagamba during his 14 years of exile from Anuradhapura. When he regained the throne, he added to the existing cave structures, and built some of the most magnificent Rock Temples to be found anywhere on the Island, right here in Dambulla.
We entered Dambulla from the back of the modern golden temple.
We climbed up the black rock which towers 160 meters over the surrounding plains.
At the top, we arrived at the five caves, which contain beautiful statues and fresco mural paintings.
Every inch of the five ancient caves is painted with beautiful images and patterns.
It reminded me that at times, people who see my Buddhist paintings marvel at how long it must have taken me to paint them.
It is true that it took me months to paint some of these paintings.
But like the rock caves in Dambulla, painting these surfaces with painstaking details is a meditation by itself.
You do not paint it in order to finish it, but as a way of cultivating a peaceful mind, developing infinite patience and learning to be in a space of silence.
While I paint these very detailed paintings, I learn to step outside of my thinking mind, which always analyzes, makes assumptions and draws conclusions.
For those long hours, I suspend the way I normally think and instead I listen and sense the innermost vibrational currents of my being.
As I concentrate on the shapes, the colors, the patterns and the spiritual meaning of the images that I form, I make these realities true for me.
I overcome my ego-based doubts and FEEL and know that these are true…
I never look at the clock while I paint these detailed devotional paintings, and I rarely feel hunger or thirst.
At times, many hours pass by before I realize it is dark outside, and time to shower and prepare dinner.
Or Jules comes into my studio to tell me it is late and to discuss what he can cook for dinner for us, while I shower and clean up.
The paintings and statues in the Dambulla caves are related to the life of the Buddha, including the last temptations of Lord Mara and paintings of the Buddha’s first sermon.
The murals in the caves spread across an area of 2,100 square metres, or 23,000 square feet.
The caves predates Buddhism in Sri Lanka.
Prehistoric Sri Lankans lived in these cave complexes before the arrival of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, and there are burial sites in this area with human skeletons that have been dated to about 2700 years ago.
In the Dambulla Cave Temple, there is an ascent and descent of approximately 2000 stairs, spread across 18 terraces.
Climbing up many of these steps, I overheard a witty British couple.
The man said that it is a hot and sunny day, and climbing all those steps made them both sweat.
The woman, who was covering herself with a shawl as required by anyone with exposed shoulders or legs, looked extremely red and overheated.
“Speak for yourself, darling!
I am NOT sweating, I am GLOWING.
Ladies do not sweat, we glow.
Although I have to admit that today I am “glowing” profusely…..”
If you visit these amazing caves, make sure to visit the art museum located a few blocks away from the golden temple.
It has an amazing collection of old canvases painted by Sri Lankan artists, as well as life scale reproductions of many of the frescos found in many temple caves all around Sri Lanka.
Our driver recommended a good place to eat in Dambulla.
It offers a buffet of Sri Lankan food, which included a very delicious eggplant dish and a dish that I have learned to love, which looks like pulled pork, but is actually thinly sliced banana flowers with spices.
It is really delicious.
In many places around Sri Lanka, the drivers of the tourists eat for free and stay in the hotels’ special quarters for free.
We took a drive to Kandalama lake, to see more rural temples.
I was struck by the beauty of the trees, sticking out of the water and reflected by the mirror-like lake.
On our way back to our comfortable hotel, we stopped to get Jules a haircut.
In a nondescript, small barber shop, they gave him an expert facial shave, a hair shave and a fabulous head and shoulder massage, all for about five dollars.
I love the fact that they do such a great and caring job when they cut hair.
They do that in India and Japan as well.
A haircut is not just hair, it always includes a head and shoulder massage to relax and release tension.
From tropical Sri Lanka where the people are gentle, the culture is rich and the pineapples and papayas are sweet, I bid you sweet dreams…..