Art begins with resistance – at the point where resistance is overcome. No human masterpiece has ever been created without great labor.~Andre Gide
The artist stares at the massive walls at the entrance to a cave, closes his eyes and begins to feel the wonders hiding in those walls. Bronze age implements in large calloused hands are put to work. Hammer hits chisel, chisel chips away excess rock, hour after hour, day after day, until a solid wall, inch by inch, becomes textured, reveals a personality, breathes a breath held in since the beginning of time. One, two, three elephants each being ridden by a Buddha. Did he have an idea what treasures lay hidden in the rock? Could he have imagined me staring at them in awe and wonder thousands of years after chisel was first put to stone?
Entering this cave, part of the Karla cave system, the ancient Buddhist shrine infuses into me a feeling of awe at it’s grandeur, of reverence for the God that inspires the hearts of men to aspire, of admiration for those that created a magnificent shrine by widening what was in all likeliness an insignificant hole in the side of a hill to create a wonder for the ages.
This Shrine was used by Buddhist monks for meditation. I wonder, was it meditation that the artisans were engaging in when they carved the 30, six sided columns lining the sides of the cave? Was the carving of the figures adorning the top of each column an act of personal prayer offered to a deity thanking him for being gifted with the skills of an artisan?
I’ve been in caves before but none as ancient as these which were believed to have been built in the 2nd century BC. My previous cave experience was earlier this year in Cappadocia, Turkey. Those were old, built in post Christ times and, though mysterious and beautiful, lacked the detailed carvings shown in the Karla caves.
In both experiences, I found myself seeking to carve out a bit of solitude, wishing the noisy crowds would vanish giving me time to sit in silence and try to see through the eyes of the ancients, to feel their feelings, to think their thoughts, to meditate on their meditations. If I could have achieved their state of devotion would I have been able to feel the presence of God? Would I have been able to connect with God on a visceral level? Would God have spoken to me? Would I have recognized God’s voice? Would I have had the sense to act on God’s words?