Be united in the Reverence of Mountains

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Be United in the Reverence of Mountains
By: Krystal Marie Collins
Date: Sunday October 7
Time: 10:30 am
Location: Australia National University Chaplaincy
Unitarian Universalist Fellowship
Join us for Tea and Coffee and light refreshments following the service.

Opening reading: (re-printed from Julian Fleetwood’s zine)
Canberra in 1867
By: Edgae George Williams

I stood upon a little rocky hill,
Beneath old Ainsile’s lofty brow
Ans looked out on those rolling plains,
Without a thought of what is now;
For they were mine the gently sloping hills,
The mountians in the distance, calm and blue,
A picture pure and sweet, without a stain,
The box tree’s blossoms and the humming bees,
The clump of trees, an island on the land,
The wealth of little flowers, the chattering birds,
The dear old river, with its silvery band;
All that I saw was mine, or so I felt.
They to me, were a never ending joy;
I know no different, nor wished to know.
For I was just a happy care-free boy.


I have always been intrigued by concepts which unite cultures. Concepts which abound language and geographic gaps. Concepts regarding philosophy, religion, social structure, even everyday life activities such as cooking techniques.

And so, inspired by our previous service, in the spirit of Fredrick Henry Hedge and transcendentalism, as defined by John last week, I would like to share a recent culturally uniting experience which pertains to nature.

At the end of August I had the opportunity to visit the world heritage sight: Angkor Wat outside of Siem Reap, Cambodia or as the Khmer people pronounce it, Camboja. As the furthest and most developed city on the spice trade route to India, Angkor reached its prime in the 13th century. Looking at Angkor Wat, which means “Temple Mountain” in Khmer, the most central temple in the complex, one can see the elegant lotus structures accenting the corners of the outer gate, the main complex, and the central temple. What I learned from a guide book was that the decorative lotus signified something much greater.

These structures were ment to capture the geometry of a mountain, gradually gaining elevation until the central peak, which is the tallest, on top of the temple. Reproducing a mountain in temple architecture or “Temple Mountain” is a Hindu tradition ment to emulated the mythical Mount Meru. Residing on one central continent, Mount Meru is where all the gods live including the guardians of each cardinal direction. To access Mount Meru, one must climb each of the seven mountain chains surrounding and with each summit comes a higher level of enlightenment.

I was immediately attracted to the reverence a culture must posses to reproduce this kind of imagery in the building most central to their religious practice. And most of all, I identified with it.

In this context, by reverence I mean, as defined by Wikapedia, a subjective response to something excellent in a personal way or as defined by, a feeling of deep respect twinged with awe. Feeling reverence in the presence of mountains has been a central theme in my life since childhood. Even in the most immediate sense, I adore Black Mountain, Canberra’s favorite land mark. On my daily bike ride to and from the Dinosaur Museum I often think how blessed I am to view the iconic radio tower from multiple vantage points around Lake Ginnendera. To demonstrate my appreciation for this mountain, I even climbed it in July in the pouring rain.

Soon after I arrived in Canberra, I needed to get a mountain fix and had heard Black Mountain was the one to see. I must have forgotten what season I was in (this is a common syndrome with Americans and can only be attributed to a northern hemisphere with drawl symptom) because as soon as I got to the Botanic Gardens and the base of the climb in began to rain, and it was freezing, I am not sure in Celcius but it couldn’t have been any warmer than 40 degrees Ferenheit. In any even, I found my way up a steep paved trail which was in the earliest stages of decay, being torn up by enormous iron bark and ribbon gum tree roots. The rocks were deeply weathered and I wondered how many millions of years their atoms had been arranged before mine. I heard Magpies teasing each other with their mimicking calls. I smelled the freshness only rain can bring and I felt each drop like a tap on the shoulder from a familiar friend reminding me to enjoy the experience. Although the ambiance was ominous in the fog that enveloped all the vegetation and the tower ahead, my reverence was palpable.

What is it that draws us to mountains? If you are willing, close your eyes….

Remember a time when you experienced a mountain. Maybe you climbed or drove to the top. Maybe you saw the most amazing view and your perspective was for miles and miles. Perhaps you were joined by a loved one. Perhaps you were alone and enjoyed the experience in solitude. Maybe you saw a mountain from the valley floor and looked up at it. Remember what it felt like to be small compared to something big. Remember what it felt like to wonder how the mountain came to be? Touch the reverence you had in that moment. Recapture the awe. Feel the excellence. Be inspired.

In closing, I would like to extend an invitation to you:

Invite yourself to be united in the reverence captured by mountains, and other such natural things. Know that there is a country you might not have ever been to with people you may never meet that feels the same reverence in the presence of mountains as you do. Allow yourself to take that reverence into the world with you. Be inspired by the Khmer and their ability to create a physical manifestation of their reverence: Temple Mountain. Ask yourself: What can I create in the world with my reverence?

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