This week’s story time was inspired by a photograph of Buddhist monks attending the Makha Bucha celebrations at the Wat Dhammakaya temple in Pathum Thani province, north of Bangkok, Thailand, on February 16, 2022. I will admit, I got a little carried away with the research (does that happen to any of you?), but it was super fun to pen this flash fiction piece. Let me know if you enjoy it. Happy Sunday!
“If you seek security in life,” the eldest monk bowed, disrobing, ‘then unknowingly you seek death.” Both monks reached into the same icy bucket to scoop out sponges. The older monk lathered before continuing his lesson. “The only truly secure place is the grave.” Their bare bodies faced east towards the mausoleum. They joined the thousands of terracotta warriors–some on horseback, some in chariots, that had faced that direction for centuries.
The men washed their armpits, letting the cold sink in before building a lather to scrub away stickiness. This morning ritual of public cleansing took years to become routine.
One thousand hums at dawn, that’s what the ancient scroll over the temple doors foretold. The men put back on their saffron robes, joined the rest of their order, a collective buzz that was building with each passing month. Faith filled the sunken sanctuary space.
They would hum each day until the first emperor arose. The new monk received the traditional training at the front of the tomb. “Take up one idea. Make that one idea your life – think of it, dream of it, live on that idea.” They handed him a hurricane lamp with the order’s sigil etched into the side. “This is the way to success.”
The men positioned the new monk in the front row of the meditation. “A sanctuary is only sacred if it upholds the wisdom of those that came before it.” Reincarnation of the true leader was close. A warrior unafraid to starve his enemies, behead liars, and burn disbelievers at the stake.
He was made immortal, this temple erected in his effigy. The men inside were blessed to be his disciples throughout the centuries. As the sun came out of hiding, the mausoleum shook.
The men paused their hum to press their heads to the ground and chant, “All Hail Emperor Qin She Huang.”
© khartless 2022, All Rights Reserved
~Cover Photograph: Jack Taylor / AFP / Getty