The RISD Museum Buddha
The large wooden Buddha
Sits placidly in a quiet room
Far from his native land.
No priests tend his temple.
He smiles on museum visitors
Peace in his glance.
Once he contained prayers
Dropped through openings in his lotus legs
Does he miss his worshipers?
I sit quietly on a bench
Breathing in his vast presence
Breathing out awareness of peace.
On Mondays at noon I go to one of my favorite classes. There are five of us, and a Zen priest, Kosho. We each read from a book of quotations... and then we interpret the quote. Usually Kosho will comment, leading us toward a deeper understanding.
Today I sat on the other side of the table and faced this Buddha above. He silently meditated despite our stumbling over such concepts as the difference between pain and suffering, the significance of ordinary things, and the importance of this moment. Buddha (or, as my wife pointed out, a photo of a statue of the Buddha), sat quietly and did not flinch as we revealed what we call in Zen our "beginner's mind."
I felt there were seven of us in the room, with Buddha teaching by example. 50 years ago I read the Tao statement, "He who speaks does not know. He who knows does not speak." The Buddha didn't say a word during the entire class. Normally we don't speak either, except when it is our turn with the quote... or during the the last 10 minutes. But our minds go a million miles a minute, generating countless "dukkha" as we think about what we'd like to say about someone else's quote, what we did earlier in the day, and what we'll do after class.
We disband sharply at 1pm. The Buddha doesn't get up, doesn't flinch, and doesn't even gloat that he no longer needs to struggle with such concepts. How did he figure things out? Did he one day have "beginner's mind?"
I do not know.