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BVI Buddhas

On my bedside table, between my lamp and bottle of water, usually sit two books: whatever novel I’m currently reading and The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh. The novel serves as an escape from self, the Buddhist teachings a return. Whenever my mind feels like it’s in the surf—a murky, jagged mix of sand and broken shells—I read a random page of The Miracle of Mindfulness and breathe. After chanting one of Thich Nhat Hanh’s poems or perusing his interpretation of a Buddhist parable, my mind settles and clears.

Physical statues of the Buddha emblemize the peaceful, contemplative nature of Buddhist philosophy. According to the Buddha Dharma Education Association website, all measurements of a carved Buddha are set down in the Buddha canon and based on ideal physical proportions. The site elaborates, “Everything, the spot between the eyebrows, marking the eye of wisdom, as well as the tip of the nose, has its own special place. The nose has its specific length, just as the ears have their own characteristically exaggerated length.” The physical characteristics of the Buddha were precisely enumerated in the Pali Canon, which lists the “32 Signs of a Buddha” and the “80 Secondary Characteristics” including ox-like eyelashes, calf muscles as taut as an antelope’s and “skin so fine no dust can attach to it.”

 

The face of the Buddha always appears calm and content, adorned with a half smile that makes him seem like he’s in on some inside joke, which, perhaps, he is. His perfectly aligned seated posture gives the impression that the Buddha, while relaxed, maintains control over his body. He’s fully engaged with his physical self while dismissing his physical desires. A Buddha statue in the home, like a page of Buddhist text, offers an opportunity for the viewer to pause, step back and breathe.

From Shannon to Beef Island to Nail Bay, homes in the BVI feature Buddha figures as a part of their indoor and outdoor decor. My theory is that our Islands attract a certain type of individual—a person comfortable with living on “island time” who wants to enjoy unspoiled nature year round. Buddhas are reminders to relax, reset and remember why we live here in the first place.

 

Last summer, Roy Keegan of Arawak Interiors was commissioned to find a sizeable Buddha for the yard of a home in East End, Tortola. After emailing photos of potential Buddhas from Indonesia, he found the perfect sculpture carved out of a solid stone block. Unfortunately, the statue weighed about a ton, and to reach the home, the Buddha had to travel up a twisty, narrow hillside road. Roy rented a generator delivery truck, the only vehicle that was both small enough and sturdy enough to get the heavy idol up the zigzagging mountain road. Once the Buddha arrived in Tortola, it was lifted from the container by crane and placed onto the small truck. The homeowners had already built a plinth for the statue, and Roy and his team delivered it to the site without too much hassle. The tranquil Buddha now overlooks Great Camanoe and the Atlantic Ocean.

A Buddha statue’s symmetry, content facial expression and erect posture represent a calm awareness of mind and body. One of the reasons many people move to the BVI is to distance themselves from societies that emphasize distraction instead of awareness. The Buddha provides a visual reminder to reconnect.  

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