Saturday, March 8, 2008
Across the Wide Pacific
1962 was my third trip to sea, the first for Eric Levin. In that era we had 3 months of summer vacation while going to college. So 7 years before becoming a Buddhist, I had a chance to visit most of the Buddhist countries of the Far East, and that subjective experience colored my view of the various types of Buddhism. Bangkok seemed decadent and its Buddha statues were gaudy and poorly maintained. Saigon was in an eerie calm under the Diem dictatorship, and the war had not yet reached the Capitol. Taiwan was in a state of fear, the military ready for an immanent invasion from Red China, but the people seemed to be more afraid of Chiang Kai Shek's government. Korea was still in poverty in the aftermath of its war, and the seaport of Pusan's people were struggling to make money any way possible, including thievery, robbery, and piracy. But Japan at that time was at the beginning of its "economic miracle," and the cleanliness of the streets, the kindness of the people, and the beauty of the Buddhist artwork all left an impression which made me predisposed to favor the Japanese style of Buddhism.