Day 87- meditating in Vishnu’s shadow

North of Jimbaran, Bali, is the GWK Cultural Park where there is an enormous statue of the Hindu god Vishnu. When I first went there over 7 years ago, I remember running up the steps to find a ceremony taking place and since I was only wearing shorts and a singlet, I took a quick photo and left. Now it seems more like an amusement part. You can rent a segway or a quad bike to get around the vast grassy plazas or ride down between the stone mountains on a flying fox. Today, at the great statue of Vishnu, there is a film crew playing Indian music and actors dressed like Spanish salsa dancers. This weird mix of latin and Bollywood, next to the deity makes little sense to me, but I find a shaded area around the back of the statue where I can’t see so many of the people. Every now and then a small part of the same song is blasted out of the portable speaker and I can hear a burst of “Hare, hare, hare…” From where I am sitting, I look up to the statue to see a pair of pigeons nesting in the back of Vishnu’s neck. A tiny blue butterfly is beating his wings slowly, dancing around in circles. When two swallows rush towards him, he flutters off into the leaves. As soon as the swallows fly away again, he returns, again going around and around in his slow circle. Another tiny blue butterfly comes out of nowhere and they connect, spiralling down towards the water fountain at the base of the statue, where they release and separate. I watch the path of the butterfly as he once again returns to his space of sky and starts circling again.

I am wondering why this temple is so different from the one in Candidasa, but the answer is obvious- aside from the entry charge, and the people in here filming, this place has become a cultural park. It isn’t really a temple anymore. If you come at night, they perform a Kecak at 6pm every night. As you enter, the cafe workers encourage you to stop for an icy coconut and you can’t leave without walking through the gift shop. The commercialisation of god is what separates this place from a genuine temple. But, if I can meditate on a plane then I can certainly meditate here in Vishnu’s shadow. A man behind me is lighting incense to make the midday offerings and the smell of sandalwood curls around my face. Again I find the butterfly, making his rounds and watch his flight in peace.

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