How often have I seen something like WWBD – what would Buddha do – but lately I’ve stopped to think about that.
What if old Gautama Siddhartha were to arrive here, now, what would the Buddha do in a world gone wholly mad?
Would he bother with sutras, bother with teishos to the few still willing to listen, or would he check himself into a good psychiatric facility where he would be left alone most of the time, to just sit and contemplate how it is still possible to find the emptiness of the five skandhas and easily sunder the bonds of suffering if they think you crazy, and just where does all that leave the rest of us, pray tell?
You are still there. You have a patience that I will not know in this lifetime. I know I can always find you, even though you never reach out to me except in my dreams. There I tell you my life story and you listen intently. You have no need to ask questions, knowing I will tell the whole story in due time, And time is one thing you have that I, increasingly, lack. So I’ll be back for another visit soon and you will be waiting for me, mother.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Perhaps so, but many pictures don’t travel in verbose company, and there are pictures worth far, far less, although some will search until the magic thousand are found. In Japan a story can be told in seventeen syllables, a picture painted with a single brushstroke. In the zendo the whole of dharma can be heard in the silence if you stop and listen.
He left and we never saw the departure coming. We knew he would leave sooner or later, but not now. We had planned on his visit. We knew he meant he was coming. We knew he might just show up. He traveled on snap decisions. It might be here, it might be Paris or Italy. But there was always the long slow coffee hour with tales of his life as we listened intently. Now he is gone, and as we drink our coffee we tell tales of him and mourn his death.
Tonight, when the sun has finally conceded the day to its distant but ever larger kin, the moon will again sing her ever waning song hoping we will join in a chorus we have so long forgotten, bound to the earth in body and in waxing thought.
We will stop and listen perhaps, over the din of the city, the traffic, the animals conversing with the sky, our thoughts, but the words will now be an alien language for which we have no dictionary, only the faint memory of the place from which both we and the moon share cosmic ancestry.
I know you have a single question for which an answer will enlighten you. Neither Baso, Chizo nor Kai are here so you are asking me.
The answer is simple: cover your ears tightly and listen while I speak with closed mouth, watch my feet dance in joy as they do not move. If the answer is not apparent, ask Chizo, Baso and Kai to speak from beyond the grave.
A reflection on case 6 of the Book of Equanimity Koans
If there were truly justice at least of the poetic sort perhaps Van Gogh could have been born 75 years earlier, and in Vienna not Holland, so that when he decided to be rid of an ear he could have offered it to Beethoven neither of his working in his later years. And if a poet could arrange time travel using his license then he could just as easily have made the ear work for Beethoven. But on second thought, heaven knows what the mighty Ninth Symphony might have sounded like if Beethoven had to listen constantly to the critics.
As you wander around looking for a place to build a temple, looking for eden, looking for nirvana, stop and simply sit, listen to the breeze teaching you the Dharma, the clouds chanting the sutras in a harmony beyond your hearing. Look down for you are in your temple, sitting in eden nirvana at your feet.
A reflection on case 4 of the Book of Equanimity Koans