710: ALL FLESH MUST WITHER: THE DECLINE OF FIDEL CASTRO, THE KING OF SIAM AND THE BUDDHA

Castro, the world’s longest ruling communist leader, died in Cuba last year. The nation went into mourning for 9 days. Fidel ordained that no statues or other kinds of memorials should be erected in his memory. He wanted to be remembered for what he had done. He abolished casinos and brothels on the island, he  ended child poverty and begging; and hunger and homelessness became a distant memory.

These acts were his legacy.

Bhumibol, the King of Thailand/Siam also died last year. He was one of the world’s longest ruling monarchs. A whole year of mourning was declared. Many of his subjects were passionate in their adoration of him, indeed several have told me personally how much they loved their king. His photo is everywhere. Every government office, Buddhist temple, school and shop, as well as most homes, have his portrait prominently displayed. Devout subjects can be seen kneeling before his portrait and praying to him, others light incense sticks before his image just as they might before an image of the Buddha. Even after his death his picture is to be found everywhere, usually in black and white now instead of in colour, and with funereal black bunting around it. Portraits of his successor, his son, are hardly to be seen anywhere (as of January 2017). He was evidently a man of many talents, having several patents to his name, and having his music performed on Broadway. He used his palace pond to kick start  fish farming in the country. He instituted cloud seeding in arid areas to make it rain. But he will be best remembered for his attempts to eradicate opium growing in the mountainous north by setting up agricultural research stations and providing the poppy growers with support in growing alternative crops such as strawberries.

His legacy will be in agriculture, but I predict that  his portrait will continue to dominate the country  for years to come.

Buddhists are fond of carving statues of their founder. Sometimes there is a framework of metal and wire under a plaster coat, perhaps with a gold skim on top. Some temples have literally hundreds of statues, either in the open or under cover. But statues can fall and decay, as my snaps show.  Headless. armless,  bodyless, the statues disintegrate over the centuries, but the man’s (or woman’s – see previous Post!) teachings go on for ever.

His legacy will be crumbling statues built by devotees, an appropriate testimony to the impermanence of material things, and the power of his teachings throughout history.

Related Zingcreed Posts:
542: The Christian upbringing of Fidel Castro
543: Red Christian Document #40: The accord between religious doctrine and revolution
222: Images 6: The golden Buddhas of Thailand

 

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