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The Rupa and Form Manifestations Encountered in Turkey 2017-06-06T11:38:11+00:00

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The Rupa and Form Manifestations Encountered in Turkey

Posted on 15/10/2012

The Rupa and Form Manifestations Encountered in Turkey

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During the hot days of July and August, I took a trip to Turkey. Besides the handsome statue-like faces of the Turks, my impressions of Turkey are pretty much stored in terms of colors.

Some People Like Blue.

The most popular colors in Turkey are red and blue.

The Turkish flag is bright red, and red is a dominant colour in Islam. It is said that in Turkey, more than 90 percent of the population is Muslim. We set off to Turkey by invitation of a Turkish NGO called “Pearl Institute (Formerly known as Anatolia Cultural & Dialog Centre)”. The purpose was to invite Buddhists in Hong Kong to a cultural exchange with the Muslims in Turkey. The trip was a marvellous success indeed.

As per the color blue, there is a blue in Turkey that is so renowned that it is even called “Turkish Blue”, indicating the Turkish people’s love of the color.

I would like to write about blue because Turkish Blue has totally changed my perception of blue. Blue has never been my favorite color. It is said that because blue became a national favourite in Turkey because it was reminiscent of water, a natural resource the country lacks. On this trip we actually visited the underground reservoir monuments and the arid rocky landforms. Also, because Turkey has a huge coastline and an open sky, the Turks constantly live in these beautiful shades of azure. It seems only natural that blue has become so popular. There is another rich blue stone called turquoise and it has been a prized treasure since ancient times. The Turkish specialty, the “Evil Eye”, represents blessings and it is also in blue, although it is more of a marine blue instead of a “Turkish Blue”.

The largest piece of blue is the sky. When walking in the historical sites of the ancient Greeks, I could deeply experience that under the bright blue sky in almost 40 Celsius degree heat, one can hardly open one’s eyes in the blinding sunlight. The cloudless, sky blue of the heavens formed an almost chiaroscuro-like effect with the pure white marble, reflecting against our eyes and leaving us with the impression of an infinitely blinding world. This made it very difficult for our tour guide, Mr Yelbay, and the volunteers. They were fasting throughout the month of Ramadan and thus could not eat or drink from sunrise to sunset every day. Enduring thirst and wanting of physical strength, they had to take us everywhere and had the patience and vigor to explain things to us. Their tirelessness was based on their faith and the intention to give back to the world, to do good deeds. And what was more respectful was that they did not intend to accumulate merits for such deeds and in this way they are really good role models for Buddhist practitioners.

The ambience of blue and white was also present in Pamukkale, another place that we visited on the trip. Pamukkale has groundwater springs, and just the sight of them can make one feel cool. And as you stand in the clear spring water, that the heat and sweat does not seem so intolerable. You can also see the brigade square indigo lakes that resembles the Jiuzhaigou calcification landscape. It is so beautiful that it looks like a mirror. However, I cannot tell whether the lake is blue or green, as we Chinese people commonly confuse the word “light green” (青), with the concept or sight of blue. For example,  “青花”(blue and white porcelain)、“青天”(clear skies) and“青金石” (lapis lazuli) all refer to light blue-coloured things while using the word light green, as if blue and green were indistinguishable.

The Hymn of Blue

My impression of Istanbul is all blue. This is an ideal place for a honeymoon or a leisurely vacation. Istanbul is probably the most open, convenient and developed city in the Islamic region. Along the Istanbul waterfront is the gash between Europe and Asia. And the soft breeze from the ocean and the beautiful azure sky and crystal-sapphire ocean really beings joy! This is even more enjoyable for people like me who are used to Victoria Harbor in Hong Kong! The Venice Alley and the Seine River in Paris are all mesmerizing; but the coastline of Istanbul is laden with history and today’s prosperity, which gives this Islamic city a colorful background.

This was just a quick trip and because of the language barrier, I could not appreciate the cultural life of Istanbul that is the essence of a cosmopolitan city. However, as far as I know there are literary works and movies using Istanbul as the theme and background and I am sure this is not without a reason. I would really hope to have the opportunity to wander around the streets, visit their galleries and cafes and have a glimpse of their contemporary charm. However, compared to the coffee in Italy and France, the Turkish coffee is in fact not as tasty.

My tribute to blue must also include the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, also known as the Blue Mosque. Her elegant and bright blue patterns surely have gorgeous redefined. It is hard to imagine such delicate craftsmanship. Every stroke of the painting of Koranic scripture”, the Magi poetry and the patterns of flowers and grass must have been painted with a reverent heart. The meticulous Praise to Allah is like the thangkas painted by devoted Tibetan Lamas. However, because there were too many tourists, I was too distracted and could not quietly admire it but only took lots of photos to soak up the majesty. I seized the moment to devour its splendour.

However, it was in another mosque that I could truly feel the peace of an Islamic mosque. There was a teenage volunteer from Russia who explained the teachings of Islam and demonstrated to us the postures of worship. He is a PhD student in Hong Kong and his English is very good. As he is Muslim, and in response to the Gülen movement (see separate article), he volunteered to be our translator. According to him, each pattern of an onion design on the carpet is the worship space for a Muslim, so that the group worships will look very organized.

The ceiling of the mosque is like a Byzantine Church. There is also the symmetrical arrangement of the dome and the mosaic windows for natural light.  There are no decorations other than small benches and some humble followers. These all make us Buddhists feel the simple and quiet religious atmosphere. Islam advocates kindness and courtesy, and yet because of political or doctrinal dissent, some have resorted to violence. This causes a lot of misunderstanding all over the world, and much pain and death.

The Metaphor of the Rainbow

We visited a mosque made of wood and it was really memorable. Perhaps wood construction is especially appealing to the Chinese. The carpet of this old mosque was Turkish Blue, and it had dark brown wood components. It all looked really pleasant, and its long history imparted to us a uniquely serene feeling. As if stepping into the historical flow of time and space, we all naturally slowed down our pace of walking and lowered our voices, paid attention to each corner, and were mindful of each walking step. We finally found the ostrich egg suspended aloft. It turned out that in ancient times the egg was used to drive away insects and small animals. And now this egg has become an antique treasure.

When the tour guide explained how the carving on the wood fences in fact described the planetarium constellation, I was actually distracted by a string of prayer beads on the carpet. These prayer beads are not for reservation of seats, or for donations. They are just a kind of giving so that the next follower can come and use the prayer beads.

There are ninety-nine beads on the Islamic rosary because every time you pray you need to praise Allah’s name ninety-nine times. There are some shorter versions of prayer beads for convenience to be carried around and they are composed of thirty-three beads. So reading the beads three times will make ninety-nine times. Once Mr Yelbay was doing a morning session on a  flight and he took out his rosary to praise Allah. Beside him I was using a one hundred and eight beads rosary to do my Buddhist practice. Although we were sitting next to each other, we were practicing different religious practices. However, we both wished all sentient beings happiness.

Once in the street, I was holding a blue Islamic rosary (imitation turquoise) that I had just purchased in a gift shop, and the local people asked me why I did that. I did not quite understand what they talked about and could just guess their meanings. I told them I used the beads to recite “Om Mani Padme Hum” and demonstrated casually. The local people immediately put their thumbs up and gave me their praises. That was really heartwarming and interesting.

I just thought of the double rainbow we saw on the road. We were driving on the highway and encountered thunderstorms. I could not help but be a bit worried. Soon the thunderstorms stopped and a rainbow appeared in the sky, and it was not just one but two. So we all asked to stop the car and everybody got out of the car and took pictures. As we were in the countryside, we could see the whole rainbow and yet it was a pity that there was no wide-angle lens that could capture this panorama. We watched this with joy, and we all said that this was a blessing from the Bodhisattvas – happiness. I think that this good omen after the storms could also be interpreted that a strong faith in one religion can accommodate someone else’s religion. The first rainbow is like one’s own religion and the second is like the religion of others, and people of different religions can work together, shoulder to shoulder, to send blessings to the world. This is perhaps the meaning that the Bodhisattvas’ wish to convey through the rainbows?

Original Chinese text: Elsa Lam

Translation: Brenda Leung

English Editing: Raymond Lam

 For more articles about Interfaith Travel to Turkey

七八月天頂著艷陽烤炙匆匆走一回,對土耳其的印象,除了輪廓分明、長相端好的一張張如希臘雕像般的俏臉外,留在腦海裡多多少少的記憶是用顏色貯存的。

有人喜歡藍

土耳其最當道的顏色是紅和藍。

土耳其國旗是鮮紅色的。紅色是伊斯蘭教的流行色,據說土耳其有百分之九十幾人口是伊斯蘭教徒,而此行的緣起就是土耳其一個叫「Anatolia文化與對話中心」的民間組織邀請成行,目的就是請我們這些香港佛教徒到彼邦與伊斯蘭教徒作民間交流,而且管吃管住,有求必應。

至於藍色,土耳其有一種藍色遠近馳名,甚至有「土耳其藍」(Turkish Blue)之稱,足見其代表性。他們真的很喜歡藍。

我想說說藍。土耳其的藍,讓我改變了對藍色的觀感,那通常並非我較喜愛的顏色。有說因為土耳其地大缺水(淡水資源)──此行就參觀了地下水庫古蹟和乾旱的石質地貌,而藍色讓人聯想到水,所以很受歡迎。也因為擁有偌大的海岸線和穹蒼,土耳其人成天活在這美美的藍色中,很自然以藍為尚吧。那裡又盛產藍藍靛靛的綠松石,是自古以來的珍寶。土耳其特產、代表祝福的「魔鬼眼」也是藍色的,不過是屬於海水深藍,不是「土耳其藍」。

最大片的藍是天上的。當走在古希臘Ephesus遺址中,深深領教了晴空萬里是什麼樣滋味:差一點攝氏40 度高溫下,天空的蔚藍搭配大理石的雪白,反映著讓人睜不開眼的陽光白花花一片……。只難為了領隊的Yelbay先生和隨團義工們,他們正在守齋戒,整個齋月裡每天從日出至日落的時間都不吃不喝,忍耐著唇乾舌燥、體力虛耗之餘,還要領我們到處遊逛,不時詳細的講解。他們熬著體力與耐性的考驗,一心只基於信仰,想做布施,行善事,結善緣,也不求功德,令人肅然起敬,真是佛教徒很好的學習對象 。

伴隨著汗濕的滿目藍白的情調,同樣亦發生於棉花堡,另一個參觀的景點。棉花堡那裡因為有地下水湧泉,看著涼快,又可站到清澈的泉水裡,倒不覺得汗臭難耐;還可見到遠方靛藍的湖泊,與九寨溝同樣的鈣化地貌,好漂亮的一面面鏡子般。只不知該說那是湖水藍或湖水綠,中國人常常是藍綠不分的,像「青花」、「青天」、「青金石」等,怎麼看都是藍。

藍色之讚歌

伊斯坦堡給我的印象也是藍色的。她是很適合渡蜜月,或者消磨悠閒假期的地方,是世上芸芸伊斯蘭教地區之中很開放、方便、發達的一個大城市。在伊斯坦堡的海濱,是劃開歐陸、亞陸的深水港灣,有輕拂你的秀髮的風的手──海天一色,何等令人快慰的藍呵!教我這來自維多利亞港的人特別感到舒暢。威尼斯的水巷、巴黎的塞納河,都叫人流連,而伊斯坦堡的港灣卻更多了一重恢宏氣魄,歷史的厚重與今天的富麗繁榮,賦予了伊市一種繽紛濃郁的底蘊。

匆匆一行,又礙於語言,不知伊市的文藝生態如何──這是構成國際都會的條件之一,但知已有文學、電影曾以她為題材或背景,那不是沒有原因的。真希望有機會鑽鑽她的大街小巷,閒坐一會美術館、咖啡館,領略一下她的當代神韻。雖然土耳其咖啡比起意大利、法國的其實一點不好喝。

藍色之讚歌還包括Sultan Ahmed 清真寺,也稱「藍色清真寺」(Blue Mosque),她的清雅亮麗的藍色圖案,令人要對「華麗」重新定義。很難想像工藝師是如何攀到那高處,一筆一筆的繪畫《可蘭經》經文、賢士詩句和花草紋樣,想必是懷著虔敬的心,用工筆寫下對真主禮讚的衷曲,就像西藏喇嘛繪畫唐卡那樣的神聖心情。只是因為盛名招徠遊客太多,或我心猿意馬,未能靜靜欣賞,只是貪婪地攝像,用視覺消化她的堂皇。

倒是在另一間小小的清真寺,令我們真正感受到寺廟本有的謐靜。來自俄羅斯的青年義工在小寺裡為我們講解伊斯蘭教教義,又示範做禮拜的姿勢。他正在香港唸博士,英文相當好,因為信服伊斯蘭教和響應葛蘭運動(見另文),特別來做我們的隨團義工,負責翻譯。經他說明,原來地毯上每格洋蔥形的圖案剛好是一個信徒做禮拜的空間,於是集體禮拜起來時便成行成列的井井有條。

環顧四周,猶如西方教堂的天花高度,對稱排列的圓穹頂,採納天然光線的彩色玻璃窗,除了地毯和牆上的紋樣外沒有具象的圖案,除了低矮木欄外不放置任何擺設裝飾,還有舉止謙遜的三三兩兩信徒,統統成就了一種令我們佛教徒都感受得到的簡樸安靜的宗教氛圍。伊斯蘭教本提倡仁愛、守禮,只是許多人因政治上或教義上的異見我執,言行訴諸暴力,令世人產生很多誤解,也造成太多的不幸。

The views and opinions expressed on this posts/pages are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of Pearl Institute, its staff, other authors, members, partners, or sponsors.

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