Monday, September 12, 2011

September 12: Houseful of Buddhas

While I am not a practicing Buddhist, I have strategically place around our house several small statues of Buddha and various bodhisattvas. One in particular, a Thai Buddha, bears a facial expression of such serene calm that I often find my eyes drawn to it in times of stress or anxiety, for its soothing influence. Others are fat and laughing, the kind one finds in Asian import shops everywhere. Those make me smile. Each one has its own mood, its own meaning for me. I'm drawn to the Buddhist emphasis on the ephemerality of life, which urges one to value the present moment and not get too attached to the world. While I haven't achieved a Buddhist detachment from the material world by any means, the core of my spiritual beliefs is to be mindful of Now. My buddhas remind me of this.

Haiku has a direct connection to Zen Buddhism, which is one of the things that sustains my interest in the form. On a site called "In the Moonlight a Worm...," sponsored by the Arts Council of England, I found this perfect explanation of the relationship:

"In Zen Buddhism there is a great enlightenment called satori, sought through many years of disciplined meditation. There are also many little flashes of enlightenment, called kensho, which are intense forms of those everyday noticings that surprise us or please us because they seem to reveal a truth, or to be exemplary, or to connect us again, momentarily, with the sense of awe. Haiku is a momentary, condensed poetic form and its special quality is that it is perfectly adapted to give the reader that little instant of kensho insight. Basho developed the haiku form so that each haiku became a little burst of awakening. It is this that is the essence of haiku, not its number of syllables."

I can't express it any better than that.

Visitors ask me,
Why so many Buddhas here?
Because life is brief...

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