Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Buddha's birthday

Today, by some Buddhist reckonings, is Gautama's birthday. I always liked the birthday celebrations when I was on the Buddhist circuit. Temples often would place a shallow, water-filled bowl beneath a statue like the one pictured here. Those who wished to could take a provided ladle and pour water over the statue of the baby Buddha.

There is something naturally tender and loving about bathing a baby. A natural, unadorned love. I like that feeling, but cringe when it is arm-wrestled into something "Buddhist." Taste is taste.

And I liked as well the myth that attended Gautama's birth. According to that myth, the newborn Buddha took seven steps in each of the cardinal directions and then, raising his right hand to the heavens and pointing his left hand to the earth, he proclaimed, "Above the heavens and below the earth, I alone am the world-honored one."

At face value, the statement is a mind-bender: Either this person was the most egotistical sonofabitch to ever come down the pike or his words carried with them some other meaning. I am not about to try to convince anyone of some Buddhist-approved interpretation. To the extent that they care at all, individuals figure that one out for themselves.

But I like those words. Who among us is not, from muzzle to butt plate, "the world-honored one?"

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