An intriguing historical story has popped up in not one, not two, but three different books that I read over the summer. When that kind of persistence happens in life, I tend to take notice. It often feels like those persistent motifs have a message that needs to be heard.
The story goes like this:
There is a small temple in Bangkok, called the Temple of the Golden Buddha, that houses a ten-and-a-half-foot-tall solid gold Buddha. The statue weighs over 2.5 tons and is worth almost $200 million. Near the Buddha, encased in a protective glass case, is a large piece of clay.
Back in 1957, a group of Thai monks had to relocate a large clay Buddha from their monastery temple. During the relocation, rain began to fall, so the monks covered it with a tarp to protect it. The head monk went to check on the Buddha at night and shone his flashlight under the tarp.
Surprisingly, his flashlight shone a gleam of light back from a crack in the clay. The monk took a closer look and began to chip away at the clay. As he knocked off more and more shards of clay, the gleam grew brighter and brighter, revealing solid gold underneath!
Historians believe that several hundred years before this monk’s discovery, monks had realized they were about to be attacked and covered their precious golden Buddha in clay to keep their treasure safe from looting. Unfortunately, all of those monks were killed and the secret of the golden Buddha remained hidden until that day in 1957.
Isn’t that fascinating?!
I visited this temple myself back in 2003, but had completely forgotten about this story until reading it three times this summer.
To me, this story is important because it reminds of what we keep hidden underneath a hard exterior. It reminds me that our essence is brilliant, but covered and protected in a hard shell that we show to the world.
If we are brave enough to chip away at our exterior mask, we can uncover our own gleaming, true selves. And the world is better for it.
What does this story mean for you? What does the clay represent? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.