We planted this stone statue of the Buddha under our American Cranberry Viburnum and placed some other large rocks found on our property nearby. Our friend Deb gave us a Daphne we planted near the statue to do dubious battle with the redwood roots, and over time other wind and bird-planted plants have taken hold.
With every passing year, the Buddha and the stones seem more rooted here. Moss is taking hold on some of the stones. Save for a little watering and very occasional weeding, we mostly leave the little ecosystem to the whims of nature.
The other day I was taking pictures of the statue and stones and was reminded of my story Statues from my collection of contemporary dharma tales Buddha In A Teacup. Here is that story.
“You know, of course,” says Reginald, gazing out the kitchen window at the sitting Buddha beside the little pond in Kristen’s garden, “statues of the Buddha are the antitheses of the fundamental teachings of Buddha.”
“Nonsense.” Kristen half-smiles and half-frowns at her old friend. “Nowhere is it written that Buddha was anti-statue.”
“It is certainly implied.” Reginald scowls imperiously as torrential rain batters the house. “Concretizing the metaphor is a cognitive attachment to illusion.”
Kristen and Reginald are members of a small circle of highly intellectual Buddhists. She is sixty, he is fifty-nine – she a widow, he twice divorced. They are friends not lovers.
“I don’t agree.” Kristen lifts the lid of her teapot to assess the scent of the steeping oolong. “Needs another minute.”
“As a matter of historical fact,” Reginald continues disdainfully, “there were no statues of Buddha until several generations after his death.” He clears his throat to foreshadow the importance of his next proclamation. “His original adherents, it is quite apparent, knew better than those lesser minds who came after.”
“Pish tosh,” says Kristen, pouring their tea. “I find statues of Buddha encouraging and thought provoking.”
“You would.” Reginald rolls his eyes. “You’re stuck in a concept of form. Spaciousness versus emptiness.”
“Versus?” She reddens. “So you must be stuck in polemics.”
He scowls. “Just imagine your garden without that chunk of cement littering your ferns. Or is it too frighteningly natural without your bits of manufactured junk?”
“Imagine practice without ideas,” she retorts, her head throbbing. “Imagine your mind free of dogma. Imagine no judgment.”
“That statue is your ego.” He smirks complacently. “You’re just afraid of your non-self.”
She sighs. “I wish you wouldn’t resort to attacking me. I don’t mind if you disagree with my ideas, but when you…”
“But we are ideas,” he proclaims with a shout. “We are tangles of competing thought constructs vying for supremacy.”
“And our souls?” Kristen’s enormous gray tabby, Elvis, jumps onto her lap and butts his head against her breasts. “Are they thought constructs?”
“The idea of the soul is a very minor thought form.” Reginald waves dismissively. “A mental statue, if you will. An idealized form. A wish fulfillment. An impediment to the experience of our innate emptiness, of our being emptiness.”
“This body,” she muses, weary of their conversation, “is a temporary coagulation of molecules meant for nothing, and only accidentally capable of self-replication?”
“Something like.” He gulps down his tea. “Shall we go? Movie starts in fifteen minutes.”
“Think I’ll pass.” She fakes a majestic yawn. “Feeling suddenly exhausted and hopeless.”
“Mad at me?” He grins triumphantly. “Nothing personal. I just happen to believe that statues are infantile, primitive obfuscations of the higher realms of thought.”
She nods. “Nothing personal.”
The storm abates in the late afternoon. Kristen and Elvis go out to inspect the garden and breathe the rain-washed air. While her cat has a drink from the pond, Kristen stands before the gray stone statue of the placid, closed-eyed Buddha.
“I love your form,” she says to him. “You inspire me to sit up straight and to seek balance. And to be patient.”
A red leaf from the overhanging Japanese maple tumbles down and lands on the statue where the fingertips of the right hand touch the fingertips of the left and are held against the stomach at the navel.
Kristen, connected to everything, witnesses this reply.