I am often asked about which countries I enjoy photographing the most. That’s very hard to answer, but I do enjoy going back again and again to Buddhist countries, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Bhutan, Tibet, Sri Lanka, and Burma.
Buddha statue in Mandalay, Burma, 2008
Monk at the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa, Tibet, 2000
The ethics and the aesthetics of Buddhism are melded in a unique way. The vivid color of robes and sacred places contrast with the monochromatic tradition I grew up with.
Young monks play with computer games in Sera Monastery in Bylakuppe, India, 2001
Every time I have visited a Buddhist monastery, I have seen a playfulness among the monks, a joy in the way they conduct themselves and the way they interact with each other.
Young nun, Rangoon, Burma, 1994
Monks in the Rain, Angkor Wat, Cambodia, 1999
A monk studies Buddhist scripture in the late afternoon at a monastery in Aranyaprathet, Thailand, 1996
As I photographed the picture of the monk and the cat in a monastery in Thailand, it occured to me that all the qualities that I observed – contemplation, serenity, meditation – are ones that are antithetical to the hard-charging, ladder-climbing Western culture.
Young monks study Buddhist scripture at a monastery in Litang, Kham, Tibet, 1999
Pilgrim praying at the Buddhist academy of Larung Gar, near Serthar, Kham, Tibet, 2001
The Monks have a way of taking something we could consider mundane, and transform it into something sacred.
Candles are a form of offering at the Tibetan Prayer Festival, during which thousands are lit under the Bodi tree. Bodh Gaya, India, 2000
Monasteries have always been places of refuge for people and animals who have no other place to go. Monks will share whatever they have, no matter how small.
Woman meditates in Bagan monastery, Burma, 2008
Even though they get merits for helping people in need, one never has the impression that they do it for any other reason other than their good nature, dedication, and hospitality.
Quotations from the Buddha:
“Teach this triple truth to all: A generous heart, kind speech, and a life of service and compassion are the things which renew humanity.”
“Just as a candle cannot burn without fire, men cannot live without a spiritual life.”
“In the sky, there is no distinction of east and west; people create distinctions out of their own minds and then believe them to be true.”