I light a small stick of incense and step into the fine mist that hangs in the morning darkness of the Temple steps. It’s a ritual now, when I return from a trip, to offer incense to the big Buddha. I’m just back late last night from leading a three-day retreat with Rev’s Jay and Karen Weik and the Toledo Zen Center. Out in their farmhouse zendo in the country, we sat under the big sky and appreciated the harvest moon which illuminated our nights.
But this morning, I offer incense to the big Buddha that presides over the entrance to the Temple. He doesn’t seem to mind about all my comings and goings. I ask him if he thinks I am too busy – whether I should slow down and do less. He doesn’t say yes and he doesn’t say no. The cars rush by on Pleasant Street and the air is moist against my cheek.
During my absence, the little pumpkin that was in front of the Buddha by the incense holder has made its way into the begging bowl the Buddha holds in his lap. I imagine him reaching down one silent stone arm in the middle of the night – or even in broad daylight when no one was looking. Reaching down with gentle slow-moving fingers to pick up this fleshy orange fruit for his bowl. But then I think that if big Buddha is operating in the deep time of his native granite, the little pumpkin which is so solid to me, must be nearly invisible to him as it flashes into being and disappears again. In that case, only his great powers of subtle awareness allow him to see the momentary reality of something so transient as a pumpkin – or a human being.
I suppose I am more like the pumpkin than the crushed stone that lies under the Buddha. More like the leaves on his lap [did he go walking quietly around the grounds collecting his favorite colored fall leaves or did the trees drop them there purposefully?] than the mountain of granite out of which he was carved. My hopping around here and there is just part of my coming and going nature. But when no one is looking, I sit very still in the middle of the incessant movement of my life. I am private and invisible. Just as he, when no one is looking, has adventures we can only begin to dream of.