We just got back from an Indiana roadtrip initiated in part by a wedding we wanted to attend of the daughter of old friends who live there. We stretched the trip into a few extra days to vacation and explore, which led us to the Buddha’s footprint. There are thousands of Buddha’s footprints throughout the Buddhist world, many of which are carved from stone or enhanced natural formations. Some exist as the centerpiece of thangkas, like this one located in the Indiana University Art Museum.
Somehow seeing this huge footprint on the wall startled me. This towering footprint is taller than I am. A footprint horizontal on the earth, even if it is huge, makes some sense. However, there is something a bit surreal, topsy-turvy when the bottom of a tremendous foot is showcased on a wall. Though a lot of the detail of this thangka has faded, it is still incredibly impressive. Buddha’s foot is covered with all kinds of iconography including animals (some quite fantastical) and a mandala and is in a field of blue with rocks, flora, dancing figures, praying monks, stupas, and sacred writing (Thai) throughout.
This footprint of the Buddha is immense and clearly mysterious, busy with information I can barely decipher and certainly do not comprehend. Having the bottom of Buddha’s foot exposed and vertical feels extraordinarily intimate, open, vulnerable, and bold. It stopped me in my tracks yesterday morning. In fact, it made me want to kick off my shoes.