The Sun Rises

June 12, 2016

     4:30am, the piercing alarm jolts us out of our warm beds.  We dress quickly, too tired to talk too tired to think, and run down the stairs of our hotel into a waiting tuk tuk.  A sleeping city passes quickly by our sleep filled eyes.  Twenty minutes later, still half asleep, we stagger with the crowd through the massive sandstone gates of the Great Angkor Wat, and into the temple complex.

     Deafened by the silence of a thousand of other weary travelers, all here for the same purpose, I wait reverently at the heart of this City of Temples on a ruined monastery pitted and worn down by the passage of time and men long dead.  Surrounded by friends and strangers I find myself sitting alone in the company of my thoughts.  There’s still some time left, so I let my eyes wander around the structure outlined against the night sky.

     Directly to my left runs the main causeway leading to the central temple.  Its raised five or six feet off the ground and runs twelve hundren feet long.  On either side of this and along the whole length, two giant seven headed snakes known as Naga stand guard.  Two sacred pools, made for ritual cleansing, stand on either side of this causeway.  About eight hundred feet to my front towers the main temple complex.  Made of solid stone and standing six hundred feet tall, even in the predawn darkness I am struck with by the sheer size and magnitude of this structure.  I see the five soaring towers which together represent Mount Meru; home of the Hindu gods.  Its barely visible, but every square inch of this central temple is covered in intricate carvings of impossible detail.  The god king Suryavarma II built this temple facing the West and dedicated it to Vishnu.  It has been a continuous place of worship for a thousand years.

     Every day for a thousand years it stood.  The sun rises.  Every day for a thousand years men looked with reverence upon what I now see.  Soft golden rays slowly sweep across the holy mount and kiss carved stone that has known such embrace for a millennium.  I stand speechless.   Struck to the core.  Unworthy of such beauty; humbled by such majesty.  The sun washes over my face.  My soul rises up to meet to it.  I feel peace. 

     I see the crowds arounds me from every nation and every people.  Each person has a story.  Each person has friends, family and a home.  Each has fears, hopes, and desires.  We all have the same emotions.  We all love.  We all have a soul.  In the beauty of the sunrise over Angkor Wat I can see reflected the beauty of each individual standing here with me. 

     The same tropical sun sinks down to illuminate the city’s western border.   We make our way through heckling merchants and a pulsating crowd to board a plane in the Siem Reap international airport.  It’s been a long day, but an even longer journey.  I step onto the plane to go back to my usual life.  I’m not the same person as when I left three weeks ago.

Robert Roach, Undergraduate Student

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