At 5:30 a.m., out beyond the street lamp and its bluish haze and between the wires that hung from the lamp pole, the morning star was literally blazing this morning. Like some immodest prop in a high school play, the star seemed somehow too fat, too bright, too loud, too much. And yet there it was, clear as a bell.
Nearby, but lower in the sky, a smattering of clouds picked up the pink and white of nearby city illumination. I imagine if I had stood in the cold of the porch, the clouds might have blocked out or blurred the star, but for a few moments of looking, they were still and the star was unapologetic. "Lookit me!" it offered without caring if anyone looked or not. It was like walking on some sidewalk to meet a friend for coffee and seeing that friend from a distance ... the two of you looking and recognizing and filling up with friendship and ... smiling.
Some Buddhist schools celebrate the anniversary of Gautama's realization today. The school I grew up in does that. The tale has it that Gautama, after much effort that proved unavailing, sat down under a tree one night and vowed not to rise until he actualized the enlightenment he sought. And with the rising of the morning star, he did just that and neither star nor man had cause for regret.
Today is the last day of Rohatsu sesshin, an intense eight-day Zen retreat that comes once a year. Participants rise from their seats after so much effort and return home, having expressed their determination and yet strangely unable to say what, precisely, has just happened. It is worth a smile, perhaps.
In New York City, this morning, a small rally was scheduled outside of the Zen temple Sho Bo Ji. The rally was organized as a means of pointing out the sexual and financial depredations of Eido Tai Shimano, a man who has acted as a Zen teacher for 50 years. He wounded many and made no open apology. He too has been unrepentant and yet, if I had to guess, he failed to greet his true friends with a smile. All that effort beneath the tree and no smile to show for it. It's a profound pity that none of us needs to duplicate.
A bright, saucy and unrepentant star.
A good friend.
A warm smile.