The Reclining Buddha

One of the most popular sites in Bangkok is Wat Pho, the center of the traditional Thai massage. A Thai massage is nothing like the relaxing massage for shoulders or feet that most people think of. Rather, it is a "participatory sport" involving the whole body that one Thai friend jokingly referred to as yoga for lazy people. It is an ancient healing system combining (quite painful) acupressure and assisted stretching using the hands, knees, and feet of the physician to compress, pull, and stretch the muscles.

Wat Pho was established in the late 1700's as the first public university in Thailand to preserve and teach knowledge, including the established techniques of Thai massage, the study of complete physical, mental, and emotional well-being. This knowledge can know be found inscribed in rock on the walls of the buildings, mapping out points and pathways of energy in the body.

Wat Pho is also home to the Reclining Buddha, a 150 ft long statue shining brightly with heavenly gold leaf that surrounds the structure. It is hard not to be moved by the awesome presence of the scene—a man lying down in the final moments of his life with a serene smile on his face. In the midst of suffering from illness and certain death, the Reclining Buddha has found complete peace. He lies there solid, calm, compassionate, and above all, complete.

In this statue, Buddha exudes the message, “I’ve done it. It’s over. It is finished.” Looking at this statue, my thoughts turned to the last moments of Jesus’ life. What a contrast! Bleeding and dying on the cross, in the midst of suffering and certain death, Jesus cried, “It is finished.” Jesus’ last moments ended in complete agony. And yet, Jesus hangs there on the cross also compassionate and complete.

Jesus tells us the way to complete well-being in our bodies and lives is not through our own efforts but only through his efforts. Jesus lost his serene smile and suffered so that we could rest and have the glorious calm of heaven.

The peace of God, which passeth all understanding,
shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7, KJV)

Thai massage and deep meditation is wonderful, but Jesus tells us we cannot heal ourselves. We need the attention of the great physician to cure and eradicate cancerous sin from our bodies and souls. We need the hands and feet of Jesus to work on us and give us a taste of this peace that surpasses all human understanding. Because of his suffering sacrifice, we too can finally have a serene smile, knowing and experiencing the complete shalom of heaven.