When an outdoor statue of the Buddha at a Buddhist center in Pittsburgh required a major restoration, monks at the center got help from an unexpected source—a vintage auto shop that specializes in restoring classic cars.
The Pittsburgh Buddhist Center sought the services of Exoticars, a restoration shop in the nearby town of McCandless, which recently finished work on the gleaming white Buddha statue that has greeted the faithful and visitors alike since it was installed at the center in 2006.
With its eyes closed and seated still in the lotus position, the statue went through weeks of meticulous work at the restoration shop—a testament to a remarkable “partnership of ancient Asian spirituality and modern American craftsmanship,” as The Associated Press put it in a November 9 article.
For weeks, the Buddha statue shared the same space as an assortment of vintage vehicles that classic car aficionados brought to the store—popular makes ranging from Bentleys, Corvettes and Porsches to a 1951 Ford pickup truck.
Working with precision tools, workers stripped off several layers of fading paint before putting on a new coat. They repaired cracks and labored on the statue’s hair.
The restoration evoked responses from fascinated customers and car enthusiasts gathered for weekly Friday happy hours hosted by the store.
“There’s always something here that people follow progress on,” Dave Ley, co-owner of Exoticars, said. For several weeks during the fall, the Buddha statue “was a big hit.”
The Pittsburgh Buddhist Center practices the Theravada (“Way of the Elders”) school of Buddhism, the other two major schools being Mahayana (“Great Vehicle”) and Vajrayana (“Diamond Vehicle”). Theravada is the most prevalent form of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, where the monks at the center are from and where the statue was made.
The center’s abbot, Bhante Soorakkulame Pemaratana, praised Ley for the “courage” he displayed in taking on a job “beyond his comfort zone.”
“They have seen monks in the movies, but not a real monk,” he said of Ley and his workers, explaining that they had never before been in a face-to-face encounter with a Buddhist hermit.
“I am so happy for the relationship we built,” Pemaratana said. “We figured we’re getting some good karma,” said Ley
Statues of the kind that Ley and his team restored are used regularly by Buddhists to focus their religious devotions as well as to reflect on the virtues of the founder of their ancient faith.
The particular statue at the Pittsburgh Buddhist Center shows the Buddha seated in samadhi, a position symbolizing stillness and the highest state of profound concentration humans can achieve.
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