Monday, April 8, 2013

Buddha's birthday

In some places, April 8 is the date on which Gautama the Buddha's birth is celebrated.

In the thickets of legend, it is said that when this baby Buddha was born, he took seven steps in each of the cardinal directions (East, West, North, South) and then, raising his right hand to the heavens and extending his left hand towards the earth, he said, "Above the heavens and below the earth, I alone am the world-honored one."

Pretty heady stuff, even for a legend. Either this guy was the biggest ego-tripper the universe ever saw or he had something else in mind.

Naturally, those who followed in Gautama's wake decided he had something else in mind, even if they got into pissing matches about what, precisely, that "something else" was.

One of the nice rituals I used to enjoy on 'Buddha's birthday' was the placing of a statue in a shallow tray of water. Those wishing to could approach, pick up a ladle and pour water over the statue. Washing the baby, caring for the baby, soothing the baby ... what's not to like? Anyone who has cared for a baby knows that soft and crooning emotion. It's lovely. Who wouldn't care for a baby in their care?

There are a hundred metaphorical tendrils anyone might draw from Buddha's birth ... legendary stuff. Take care of your baby, for example, or birth and death or an expression of the ineffable or ... well the inspirational stories are woven and rewoven at the pleasure of those attending a birth. The tales, like tales everywhere, are as grand as anyone might insist they should be.

A birthday party! Festive, elevating, vastly enjoyable.

It's important and yet too, how important is it really?

My teacher's teacher, Soen Nakagawa Roshi, once remarked, "There is birth and there is death. In between is enlightenment." That tale banged my chimes as it may not bang yours.

Either way, party on!

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