I’m about to admit. . . something.
People come to sit at our backyard studio especially when a beloved is dying or sick, struggling or almost dying— a cat or dog who has been daily and close for many years, and whose loss marks time, or a brother in law or long-time friend. I feel honored by this. A person feels it is a good place to un-grip the hold on this world of dirt and thirst.
During tuesday evening meditation a few months ago we started writing names and placing them on the altar. Then we sat with them. Then I sat by myself in the mornings with the names. I sat wednesday and then thursday and friday and saturday and sunday and monday. I liked it. Sometimes a name was left and the related person would not come for a couple weeks. How great it was that I loved having the spirit of people in this studio. I thought, I am really being extra loving now. I am being with all beings like the chant says. It must be all the practice!
Then I started not liking that the pieces of paper were there. The altar looked cluttered. I thought, she left this name behind. And then, I’m a priest; I should be able to handle this. The altar is holding them, the absolute. Self-clinging is the problem. I have written names, placed them on the altar, in other temples, and left for five months. SO WHAT IS MY PROBLEM?
I took the folded purple papers with names, respectfully and secretly hid them behind the Buddha-like statue in the guise of cleaning up. Then tuesday morning, I cleverly arranged them, for the evening group.
Even though I literally shoved the little paper offerings behind the Buddha statue I didn’t know I was hiding behind the Buddha, a common phrase meaning using meditation as a way to confirm the ego in some way. There are as many ways to hide behind the Buddha as to bend down and kiss the ground (Hello Rumi).
Then I knew what I was doing.
I sat with it. Here is space …… . … .
… . . .
… … .. . ..
for it. . ..
(Almost looks like a dream message
It is a message.
What does it say to you ?)
So we’re going to make an outdoor Jizo altar in front of the rose bush in the backyard. Jizo is a non-gendered Saint. Look up Jizo and Japan and you’ll see. (Or s/he might flip between genders depending on who is watching). Traveler, Bodhisattva, presence, being, historical, and deity and energy. One who has different functions of assisting us with our weeps, screams, railings, in this world and between. Jizo Bodhisattva helps all travelers, especially children, transition from one realm to another. Zen Master, Doctor who specializes in child abuse, and Author, Jan Chozen Bays, says about Jizo, “It is said that a person who looks long and carefully enough will find their own face on one of these Jizos.”*
Steve and I. We’re going to make this. Then we will all put names there. We can cry about it and grieve in our ways, and have gatherings and go toward that which is unknown, and messy. We will have a proper place. When it’s made I will tell you and there will be a ceremony. The incense smoke will roll around our ears and noses and go out. We’ll eat sweet cake and drink tea.
And you go to your home, and the names naturally blurr, and some lean east, with the breeze, like the breeze that’s coming in my room now, as I sit, typing, and the names will become faint with weather, and we will let them fall apart and fall to the ground.
Then there will be new names.
At some close bucket field , your name , my name.
~ o ~
* Chozen-Bays wrote a nice book I’ve just begun and trust completely, “Jizo Bodhissatva: Guardian of Children, Travelers & Other Voyagers.