In some ways I am hesitant to write this story, because somehow putting pen to paper brings it out of the realm of memory and magic, and attempts to fit it, albeit awkwardly, into real time – a terrible burden of contemporary life. Memories, softened and shaped by the emotion of a particular place and time, can warm our recall of an event, but the magic that lends a sense of timelessness to them, is often lost in the linearity of laying down words and language. I made my second trek, along with husband Jim, to the Buddhist Peace Hall in San Jose on Thursday morning to see the 8-ft Jade Buddha that is on a world tour. Designed by an Australian and a Thai sculptor and carved by Thai craftsmen from an 18-ton boulder of “Polar Pride” jade discovered in Canada in 2000, the Buddha is truly a sight to behold. A wealthy Australian couple who directed its development travel with the sacred icon that is believed to bring blessings for peace and enlightenment to all who visit it. Surrounded by expansive altars of flowers, fruit and greenery, the benevolent golden face, painted by a Nepalese master craftsman, shines out upon both the devout and the curious, who come from all corners and chaos of the world. The Buddha’s massive yet finely hewn torso – arms, hands, lotus-positioned legs, heart, all of finest jade – gleam a black-green, broken by glints of light from veins and cuts in the four-and-a-half ton gemstone, reminiscent of the deepest parts of a forest mottled by sunlight. Although monks chant nearby, at times the atmosphere resembles more of a carnival, with people retrieving their digital cameras for photos and hurriedly messaging their friends, while background chatter and amplified announcements fill the air next to prostrations of worship and homage.
On both visits, when I approached the deity on the carpet leading to the alabaster dais on which it resides, I was surprised to find tears filling my eyes. After tuning out the surrounding commotion, I did experience a brief time of peace, finally able to sit in the presence of the deity, tears welling up again. “Bring nothing . . . and let the Buddha fill your cup,” I heard inside my head, perhaps from some source of hope unbeknownst to me, during my first visit. And I felt my heart soften, just a little, and I wondered if that might be why I had come. Something in me that could be green, juicy, lush and flourishing has felt cordoned off the past few years, graying my work and dulling my passions. During my second visit, sitting in the presence, the words “clarity,” “form,” and “direction” drifted up like bubbles from somewhere in my consciousness. Perhaps they were gifts from the Buddha, the meaning of which would become more apparent over time?
The event website did host an article complete with photos where circles of light, or “orbs” have appeared around this Buddha with the verdant body and golden face. Upon magnification, the orbs evidently appear to be rainbow mandalas. I would imagine this news inspires the faithful, and yet conjures up the skeptic in others. In one of my photos (yes, I succumbed to taking a few shots myself . . . ), I did find what appears to be one small translucent orb encircling the crown of the Buddha’s head. Personally, I felt blessed just having the opportunity to view this tremendous work, and any additional auspicious happenings would be, of course, welcomed.
As I went about my “busy-ness” this week, and when not experiencing the Buddha business, my mind touched on Beau, my dog’s, advancing age and always the urge in me to spend more quality time with him. In the early years of his canine life, we were inseparable, spending hours hiking and roaming together, exploring, adventuring and communing, with nature and each other. It was the bonding time one might have spent with a child, which I did not have. I feel so blessed by Beau’s presence in my life. In later years, our walks and play have become considerably tamer, which has suited us both, I suppose. But today, I had set the alarm for 5:00 AM, hoping to catch a glimpse of the International Space Station fly-over, a program with which a friend is highly involved. Unfortunately, cloud cover with light rain made that impossible, so I mused over a cup of coffee as the house began to lighten with a slight glow that hints of the sun making its daily round.
Suddenly, I decided Beau and I could make good use of this early dawn to go for a walk, perhaps like the old days, raindrops and all. I donned my tennis shoes, grabbed a bottle of water along with the keys, and snapped on Beau’s leash. Despite a bit of weakness in his back legs, he usually wants to play and was raring to go – until he realized this was not a ride in the truck to the park. We were actually going to walk somewhere from home, all the way – he’s a smart one. I think it’s more that he’s adjusted to our habits. We’re all more sedentary and parked by the computer too frequently over the past couple years. So it took some coaxing, but I got him over the little bridge down the street, and he was good to go. Amidst a few raindrops, we headed for a nearby field that in past years was the site of so many good early morning romps – chasing after coyotes, following the swoop of a flock of birds, splashing through puddles left in the low-lying areas, or even crossing to the hills just beyond in search of rabbits and squirrels, while watching deer head for quieter pastures as the town awoke. Due to development, the field is now heavily fenced next to an elementary school with houses built up around of its perimeter. But we found a “weak link” in the chain and walked into the field that feels more ours than the newcomers who live there. Unfortunately, this time of year boasts a ton of dry weeds and prickly plants that Beau, once fearless with a high pain threshold, was reluctant to pad through. I stooped over and bent his legs, one at a time, picking scores of little irritating burrs out of his paws.
And as I straightened up, I was suddenly awestruck. A rainbow – a half circle of intense color much like the color wheel – had spread out across the wide expanse of sky, even more pronounced by the large open field. I exclaimed out loud to Beau, and although he was a bit more distracted by the ground’s harvest of burrs, he glanced up at me, following my eye skyward. Beau sat in front of me, framed by the arcs rising across the sky and over the distant hills. As the bright sun rose past the clouds just behind us at an angle, the field seemed bathed in golden light, an effect that was almost magical. I find these times of dawn and dusk are more given to moments of such revelation, and Beau and I have stumbled upon them numerous times. I felt that “breathless hush” in the presence of sudden and heartbreaking beauty . . . and once again, my eyes moistened and tears mapped my cheeks. My spirit flickered with a little hope – like maybe things do matter, maybe they actually make sense somewhere, perhaps even someone out there is watching and sending rainbows.
I looked down at Beau and as is oft to happen, my heart opened and filled with gratitude for the huge gift of his presence in my life. And I realized we were having another adventure, like the old days. He was still my daring, if a bit more worn and less willing, but ever-courageous companion. We continued across the field, and that double rainbow lasted and lasted, seeming to grace our walk. We came across a sizeable pile of large, gray rocks, and I grinned to see that with the angle of sun upon them, their surface glistened with a bit of gold. It was stupendous! I couldn’t help but smile and looked back at Beau, who was just then backlit by a large, luminous sun, unadorned by clouds. I thought to myself, “Oh . . . sometime in the not-too-distant future, Beau will be leaving me for the Light.” And the awareness of that brought such wistfulness and love-longing, but the moment fell perfectly to my senses and my awareness.
There in the field with me was my Beau, my pot of gold, and what felt like something that must be akin to Buddha consciousness. And then, I felt peace, actual inner peace – without fear, without attachment, without sadness, without rancor – for a few golden moments. I marveled at the “good and right-ness” of it.
While Beau and I backtracked our steps across the field and ducked through another hole in the fence, I wondered if we’d finally experienced the “gift” of seeing the Jade Buddha for Universal Peace. It is said the Buddha meets us on the path with many faces (and sometimes four legs). Perhaps the true gift of the Buddha is moments of peace that we stumble into, more accidental than accounted for, while looking for something else. We wander over the thorny ground, trying to take heart and make ourselves available and present for whatever happens and whoever arrives. The magic happens in seeing a pot of gold rather than the pile of stone. And beautiful Beau, so often my companion in the stumbling and in the wandering, reminds me to keep an open heart – green, lush, flourishing. Peace resides in an open, but in this case not jaded, heart . . .
Post-Note: This was written in October 2010. A year later, we are blessed to have Beau still with us, and celebrating his 15th birthday this month!
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