The Origins of Reverence

Waiting for the shrine doors to open at the Temple of The Tooth a few days ago, I felt the movement of reverence in the air. We gathered around the shrine, squeezing together and straining our necks to glimpse Buddha's tooth. Beautifully fragranced flowers were heaped up by devotees. The drum beat intensified. The tension of the unmet gaze of the crowd gathered like an in-breath. In the moment the shrine doors opened a wave of reverence flowed, via the gaze, from crowd to tooth. I could feel the waters of my own deep well of reverence stirring, just beneath my heart and behind my eyes.

It feels as though our reverence longs to be stirred, awakened and met. I felt this again under the Bodhi tree as people chanted earnestly towards a descendant of the tree under which Buddha gained enlightenment. We have all felt stirred in the presence of an object or

place that has been much gazed upon and revered. It feels as though

the reverent gaze or others can imbue an object or place with a presence that reaches back out towards us. As though through the object of our reverence we meet those who have gone before, and also a secret part or ourselves.


I pondered how reverence was for our ancestors. How their reverence for mountains, rivers, trees and animals supported their lives by binding them closely to nature. Reverence and survival woven together. I wondered if society's present distant relationship with nature could explain why reverence can feel awkward for us now. Maybe even embarrassing and unnecessary - except reverence for nature is probably needed more urgently than ever right now.

Exploring our own reverence can be an interesting meditation practice. We could try this by remembering a time we experienced reverence, and feeling into the sense of that. Or by gazing towards something from nature and noticing any stirrings of reverence that surface. How did/does it feel? There is no right or wrong, just a playful exploration. January 2017

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