These photos were taken 10 years ago at a train station in China. An old man apparently died while sitting there causing alarm among others awaiting their trains. But then a Buddhist monk calmly walked up to the man, held his hand and bowed. There was silence as onlookers took photos and took in this sight of reverence.
The photos resonated with me the first time I saw them. I felt sadness for the man because he died alone. But also because I think they offer a simple and profound meditation on what it means to have a body and what it means when that body is no longer animated by a soul. What it means when time stops for you or for another. And that all of that is the epitome of the sacred.
So often we think of the sacred as being something that exists outside of our ordinary lives, something necessarily ethereal, often within a religious setting or context and only the purview of saints. And I think when we do this we often miss it in the mundane transactions, travels, rituals and routines of our daily lives.
But sometimes it tears through the cloak of our illusions just long enough for it to demand our undivided attention, as in this instance. And in the simplest of gestures we see it clearly, if only for a moment. A few quiet words of reverence. A holding of a hand. A bow. And suddenly we realize, we are all waiting for our train to arrive.
Kenn Orphan, December 2021
Photo taken on November 25, 2011. (Reuters/Asianewsphoto)
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Rob Bazinet here. I am in FB jail for 4more days and I felt the need to read some of your words. Terrifying, Grimly fascinating times eh? Hang in there brother…
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These photos are so powerful – especially after knowing what took place. A simple yet elegant and compassionate gesture. Onlookers appear transfixed.