Stories/Parables/Koans: “The Hidden Golden Buddha”

I first heard this story on the Against the Stream podcast and found a written version here. Enjoy:

Everyone has Buddha Nature

Everyone has Buddha Nature

Over three hundred years ago, the Burmese army planned an attack to invade Thailand.  At the time, the country was known as Siam.  The Siamese monks were in possession of the most amazing Buddha statue.  The statue is over 10 feet tall and weighs in excess of 2 1/2 tons.  It is made of solid gold and is valued today at $200 MILLION dollars.  The monks were determined to protect the shrine that meant so much to them.  While it was priceless to them for reasons that transcend money; they knew that the Burmese would stop at nothing to steal the statue because of its tremendous monetary value.  They covered the Golden Buddha with 12 inches of clay  knowing that the warriors would totally ignore it and think it worthless.  Sadly, the monks were slaughtered in the invasion and the secret of the Golden Buddha stayed hidden for two centuries.  The Buddha itself though, remained safe.

In the mid 50’s, a monastery was to be relocated to make room for a new highway.  The monks arranged for a crane to come and move the “Clay” Buddha to its new location.  When the crane started to lift the statue, it was much heavier than expected and it began to crack.  Wanting to protect the priceless shrine, the monks lowered it back down and decided to wait until the next day to bring more powerful equipment.  To add insult to injury, the rains came so the monks lovingly covered the statue with tarps to keep the moisture away.  In the dark of night, the head monk took his flashlight and went out to make sure the Buddha was adequately covered.  When the light of the flashlight shone into the crack of the clay, he saw a glimmer…a reflection of something underneath that shroud of clay.  He immediately started to carefully chisel away shards of clay to find that the glimmer grew brighter.  Hours later, and all the clay removed…he was in the presence of a Buddha made of solid gold.  It now resides in The Temple of the Golden Buddha in Bangkok, Thailand.  Every year, millions of people go there to see this magnificent work of art and to worship at his feet.  And to think, it may never have been uncovered…


I can relate to the not so subtle messages of this story. For one, Buddha-nature is inherent in all of us and there is freedom in realizing this on several levels. But more concretely (less religiously?) there are numerous beautiful aspects of personality that remain hidden for one reason or another: conditioning, fear, past failures, laziness, etc. There are parts of us that go unexplored;  things we were born to know and experience, are left in the void. For myself, it has been a number of lifestyle choices (discipline), learning new skills (knowledge), and interacting with others in completely different manner (compassion and morality).  And this is just the beginning!

Now what about you —

What has been hidden in your life and dying to be recovered? What have you learned about yourself that has come as a surprise?