Saturday, July 12, 2014

It takes all kinds of Buddhas

I've been enjoying the website of Shasta Abbey Buddhist Monastery.  The photos are especially beautiful, and express the serenity of a place where people live quietly and cultivate compassion.

Here is one photo of a statue on their grounds. Hotei is a good image for American Buddhists who choose the lay life and its tangled vine of obstacles.  Below is the description of Hotei on the website.

Hotei (The Japanese name for C: Pu-tai) “He Who is the Cloth Bag of a Monk,” also known as “The Laughing Buddha.” Hotei was a wandering Chinese monk of the T’ang Dynasty, known for carrying a hemp sack on his back, roaming the countryside, spreading joy and goodwill, especially to children. The sack contained endless treasures which he gave freely, characterizing his virtue of selfless giving. He is revered in China as a manifestation of the future Buddha, Maitreya.

The hemp sack seems particularly fitting in these days, when one state after another is legalizing the use of its close cousin, marijuana, in America for the purpose of temporarily evading one's suffering. Zen works on that, too. Zen students will recognize how Hotei calls to mind the image of the last stage of the spiritual journey, from Ten Bulls, a text you could call iconic (except that I've grown to hate that word - what in the world did we used to say?)  In that, uh, important work, the spiritual journey is completed when the Zen student re-enters the marketplace with a wineskin over her shoulder, that is, relaxed and re-creating a life of creative giving.

Just saying. (And who doesn't hate that phrase by now?  Just kidding.)

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