Monday, July 9, 2012

The Buddha on the Side of the Road

“If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.” - Lin Chi

I walk or ride my bike down North Garden street nearly every day on my way in to the Black Drop . I consider it to be one of the most beautiful walks in the world - stunning views of the bay in the distance beyond the all the beautiful homes, each with their own private signature garden. Often, in the early morning or late evening, I see deer walking slowly by, grazing, unafraid. 

When I first moved into this part of town, I mentioned my path to someone who then asked if I noticed the Buddha along my way. I had not. There was laughter and she said: "He's right there. You have been walking past the Buddha every day without even knowing it."

After that, I made it a ritual to stop by the Buddha, pay my respects, sometimes utter a simple prayer, sometimes just a nod of recognition. Every so often, I would pass by, lost in my thoughts, until a gentle tug brought me into the present moment where I would look up and realize I'd almost gone by without acknowledgment. "Hey, Buddha!" Always smiling. 

Now and then, I started taking photographs. Just whenever the mood would strike me. It was interesting to note all the changes in my life in relation to the relative changelessness of the Buddha. I admit to standing there in front of him, filled with some transient pain or sorrow, and noting what I believed to be a hint of mockery in that smile. Then, days later, in a better mood, noting how the smile was now knowing, understanding, sharing in the source of my joy. 

There are always new offerings, adornments. A hat in the winter, a necklace, stones, bones, flowers, sometimes a beer can, folded slips of paper, large leaves. Everyday it changes, rearranges, subtle haiku repositionings of the totems. 

Plants and flowers grow around him. Behind him is a small tree that rises like the Hindu cobra Shesha. To his right is a small gate with steps beyond it leading up to a home. It is rarely left open. But when it is, I always have a sense of invitation. Not to climb up the stairs to the house. But to pass through another gate entirely. 

A monk asked Nansen: 
"Is there a teaching no master ever preached before?"
Nansen said: "Yes, there is." 
"What is it?" asked the monk. 
Nansen replied: "It is not mind, it is not Buddha, it is not things."

Mumon's comment: 
Old Nansen gave away his treasure-words. He must have been greatly upset. Nansen was too kind and lost his treasure. Truly, words have no power. Even though the mountain becomes the sea, Words cannot open another's mind.

A monk asked Seijo:  
 "I understand that a Buddha who lived before recorded history sat in meditation for ten cycles of existence and could not realize the highest truth, and so could not become fully emancipated. Why was this so?"   
Seijo replied: "Your question is self-explanatory."   
The monk asked: "Since the Buddha was meditating, why could he not fulfill Buddhahood?"  
 Seijo said: "He was not a Buddha."

atabi ni yande / yume wa kareno wo / kake meguru 

falling sick on a journey / my dream goes wandering / over a field of dried grass 

- Basho, death haiku

Picasa Web Album of the Bellingham Buddha

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