Saturday, April 2, 2011

Laughing Buddha

A few weeks ago, we had a service at Church of the Common Table where we talked about ideas in Christianity that are very like ideas in Buddhism, and where two church members talked about how their time as Buddhists had informed their Christianity. In my adulthood, I know that my very limited understanding of some Buddhist teachings has been important in helping me live my life despite disappointment, find contentment in my work, etc., and I am grateful for the exposure I've had to those teachings.

I found myself wondering this morning about what it would be like to have been raised Buddhist. Specifically I was contemplating what it would be like for my image of the Divine to be like my six tiny laughing Buddha statues (pictured above) rather than that of Christ with His arms outstretched, waiting to embrace me, ragged holes in his wrists the sign of how God's Love will stop at nothing for me. Rather a different picture, right?

It's been my observation from working with international students that those raised in cultures where Buddhism is dominant do seem tougher, less phased by things, than others. I'm sure that Buddhism isn't the only reason for that, but it seems to me that it would make you sort of a tough-minded pragmatist. All will be well, because nothing you see here is permanent. Getting attached to or upset about things just doesn't make a lot of sense. I've envied that calm on more than one occasion.

So I wrote a poem about this. Just to be clear, I'm not setting up a Buddha/Jesus standoff. Buddha lived 500 years or so before Christ and in a totally different context. He didn't claim to be God. I do believe that Jesus is God and Buddha is a great teacher, and I don't think that either Buddha or Jesus would have a problem with my believing those things.

So. Here's the poem.

Laughing Buddha

I have six small statues of the laughing Buddha
that I bought from a gay Vietnamese man.
I bought them because their smiles made me smile,
and for their round, portly bellies
and for their sense of peaceful abundance.

As a child, I had a picture in my room.
It was Jesus hugging a man,
with God the Father's hands outstretched
in the clouds behind.
When I felt sad, I would stare at this picture
and feel warm and comforted.
Jesus loves me. This I know.

What would it have been like
to look at laughing Buddha instead?
What would it have been like
to see that smile, impervious to my tears?

As I've grown older, I've learned
to adjust my expectations of life.
When I see Buddha smiling, I smile back...
non-grasping, letting go.

But I worship a God who knows my sorrows,
a God who wept and suffered, incarnate,
and a Spirit who intercedes for me
with groanings too deep for words.

Sometimes I wish I didn't want things.
But I do. I just do.
And when I cry, God reaches out to me
and comforts,
even when I'm telling Him
that He's the source of my pain.

I am glad the Buddha's teaching
helps me to be an adult.
I'm also so glad my God knows
that really, I'm still just a child.

1 comment:

Mike Croghan said...

Sorry I just got to reading this, Amy. Love it, love it, love it.