Asia | South East Asia | Cambodia – The View from the Center of the Universe
I overheard one of the disillusioned passengers talking to the driver as we bounced about the bus from the border at Poipet ‘Is the road…uh…like…like THIS…all the way to Siem Reap ?’
‘No’ came the smiling answer, ‘some places, road is bad.’
It was an answer you could sink your bruised backside into; brutal honesty on a brutal road. Welcome to Cambodia.
Aside from the frequent and feeble piles of steel and lumber that amassed themselves over ditches and streams, the road was…well to be honest, better than I had expected. And anyone that has ever shaked-rattled-and-bowled across Tibet, Mongolia, or Zaire might even have a word or two of praise.
Confronting the naked truth of a once-distant dream is often a disappointment.
But not always…
Standing beside the summit of Meru, at the very center of the Universe, the mind tends to wander aimlessly about. Indeed there are a few thoughts that cul-de-sac and bounce back in your face while pondering the Harmony of the Cosmos. If it were at all possible to understand the perfection and purpose of The Infinite, Angkor Wat would be the virtual textbook to which we would turn to study it.
Created with the ancient Hindu principles of sacred geometry, the temple of Angkor Wat is an Earthly model of Mount Meru, the abode of the gods at the center of the Universe. When the model is executed with divine perfection the Universe will then, and only then, reflect the same. This simple, but baffling, law was the foundation on which the vast temple was built and neither expense nor effort was spared in order to insure Harmony between the realms of heaven and the mortal lair of man.
While Angkor Wat is perhaps the most impressive of the temples in the surrounding jungle, it is by no means unrivalled. The brilliance and genius was to strike again and again over four centuries,in more than 100 temples placed with divine purpose throughout more than 50 square kilometers of tropical forest. And though there are countless degrees of eloquence that describe the grandeur, perfection, and harmony that command the visitors attention, it is a site that words alone could never describe.
As the great Khmer civilisation slid into decline in the 14th century, Angkor was abandoned and the next phase of creativity was left to the sluggish, but methodical, hand of Nature; massive trees rose from the temples, their butresses flailing about the doorways as their roots pried themselves through the walls, gripping the ancient stones in tragic embrace.
In many cases this union between the creations of man and the relentless continuity of Nature is irreversible for it is no longer the temples that support the trees, but rather the trees that support the temples. For the time being, the forest preserves the fading grace of the ancient Khmer while simultaneously destroying them and creating the next blank canvas upon which future generations may build.
‘With Harmony created and with Harmony destroyed’, someday this epitaph may stand over a series of indiscernable piles of stone, but today, it is a work that is still very much in progress.