There is a tall standing Buddha in our garden. My husband found him last summer on a day trip with friends to Hudson, N.Y. and had him shipped to our house in Connecticut. It’s not like we were shopping for a Buddha, but when we entered this antique store, the statue was waiting for us in a far back corner with a gesture that beckoned us to step closer. The bluestone figure bore a neutral expression and had an air of beauty and grace with the aura of an angel or some other unearthly figure. When I plopped down into an old easy chair on the sales floor and looked up, I was smitten. There was something about this Buddha’s presence that transported me to a peaceful place - yoga and meditation came to mind, and when I exclaimed: “Oh, I really like it,” our friends were quick to chime in on all of the attributes that made this particular piece one of elegance! This was a good thing because I could tell by the look in my husband’s eyes that he had his heart set on it, and more than likely, the Buddha would be going home with us.
At first I didn’t give this new addition too much thought, other than it was a nice piece of yard art that added a touch of tranquility to the landscape. I didn’t know much about Buddhism either, but that it’s a major religion, and that the man who came to be known as Buddha meditated under a Bodhi tree to achieve enlightenment. The day the statue was delivered I looked up what enlightenment meant, and learned that Buddha had … “finally understood how to be free from suffering and, ultimately, to achieve salvation.” With this in mind, I began paying him some attention, throwing him a glance now and then, something not too hard to do since he stands right outside the kitchen window within my line of sight. By the end of the summer he had grown on me, and it was clear that our Buddha not only had a lasting presence among the hydrangeas, but he more than held his own in the falling leaves. When we returned from Dallas for a winter visit, the snow only seemed to add to his beauty.
This May was a tough month. Family hospitalizations and emergencies, a relative in hospice, the passing of a beloved, handicapped brother, were all mirrored in the fog and mist of a stream of rainy days. There were many times when I wondered what it was all about, why we are even here with so much pain and suffering. Why us? Why our family? The sight of the garden Buddha inspired me to grab an old book off the shelf - probably left over from some college course or another tough time when I sought answers in self-help books. This time I read about the teachings of the Buddha and here is what has helped me, what I interpreted, what I came to love:
Do not pursue the past.
Do not lose yourself in the future.
The past no longer is, the future has not yet come.
Looking deeply at life as it is in the here and now - try to dwell in stability and freedom.
We must be diligent today, to wait until tomorrow is too late.
To be honest, I’m not striving to achieve enlightenment … I just want to make it through my life and help those I love as best I can, probably what we all want to do. My mother used to tell me that life did not single out special people, meaning that we’re all here equally for the full range of possibilities. We must embrace the challenges that come our way and take comfort wherever we can find it … in family, a special friend, in church, temple, a walk in nature, a pet … or maybe even a garden Buddha …