Painting Buddhas

Painting Buddhas
Painting Buddhas
Painting Buddhas

Two men, a monk and a volunteer, carefully slather gold paint onto the miniature statues of the Buddha.

Painted Buddhas on Ledge
Painted Buddhas on Ledge
Painted Buddhas on Ledge

Painted Buddhas in various mudras and configurations adorn the ledges of the lower level of the stuppa, illuminated by colored LED lights.

We duck our heads under the exposed wooden and metal foundation, slip off our shoes, and enter the lower level of the Stupa. The smell of paint is a surprise to an expectation of incense. We see two men, one donning the orange robe of a monk and the other a white smock with blue gloves, carefully slathering gold paint onto the miniature statues of the Buddha. Hundreds of Buddhas in all stages of painting lay perfectly organized on the floor. Hundreds more are neatly stacked in shelves on the surrounding walls.

“Hello”, we exhale to the two men painting.

The monk nods. The other man welcomes us. We later learn that he is a retired volunteer from St. Paul and also the treasurer of the Watt. His wife and another monk are busy cleaning and sorting the painted Buddhas, preparing them for placement in the upper Stupa for Visakha Puja, a ceremony celebrating birth, enlightenment, and death of the Buddha. The wife remarks about the Buddhas.

“They look beautiful don’t they?”

We agree passionately. How could we not when each Buddha is painted with three coats of gold paint, engraved with the name of the family who donated $200 for the right to buy a place in the Stupa for decades to come. 

The Buddhas are lined up as if in a gigantic military exhibition, primed and ready to march off to battle all the suffering in the universe.

“I hope I finish on time” remarks the retiree, laughing. “We’ve painted 600 Buddhas, but there are still 400 left to go.”

The Buddhas are lined up as if in a gigantic military exhibition, primed and ready to march off to battle all the suffering in the universe.

Two months later, on a hot July day in 2016, the same man is still painting Buddhas. Now he only has 1000 Buddhas left to paint. These Buddhas will stay downstairs and be moved from the racks they are held in now to the ceiling ledges (as in the upper level).