This morning I stopped by the Vietnamese Temple in Sarasota (Chua Linh Phong) again to meditate. The monk/abbot of the temple was there for the first time in these weekday trips. The grounds were awash in gold and red decorations, preparation for new years tomorrow. I asked if it was okay for me to sit for a while and he nodded with characteristic joviality. “Yes! Please.”
Inside, I opened the cabinet under the large gold statue of Buddha central to the temple. Trays with New years blessings and gifts sat on top of the cushions. I slid a wider rectangular cushion from underneath them and snagged one of the zafutons from the corner I took my typical spot in the back right corner just inside the door.
Last week when I came, no one was here. As I arrived I felt disjointed and unready to sit. As I was taking off my shoes, I noticed leaves littering the patio in front of the temple. In that moment, I remembered how I used to sweep in Japan before practicing tea. Indeed the first month or two I was not allowed in the tea house at all, only required to sweep and clean. I remembered how I surrendered to that practice.
A small broom leaned against a wall across the driveway So I took it bent over and began. The wind would blow leaves gently and I learned to work with it moving them into a place where the wind would carry them away and soon most of the front of the temple was clear. I began to feel satisfied and happy.
Then the wind changed suddenly and washed the leaves back to the entrance. Only now, There were even more leaves than before! I desperately tried to stop their onslaught, to no avail.
Standing up, I saw the futility of all that action and began to laugh.
All the efforts to no result, and yet the actual purpose was served.
I can go inside and sit now leaving the leaves to themselves.
Now this week, I see how my mind is the same. I sit and breath and say my mantra to draw my attention to observing my thoughts and feelings. I dutifully clear a space in my mind and heart and find moments of stillness. Then with a rush, the leaf-thoughts come scuttling in. I sweep and breathe, listen and watch.
As I put my cushions away, I see those little gifts again and remember the giving of prasad at Meher Baba’s tomb in Ahmednagar. I remember how a small item becomes a tangible manifestation of God’s love.
I realize that tomorrow, men, women and children that I had come to love and feel closeness towards, people who have slipped suddenly without warning out of my life, will come receive these little tokens.
I smile and touch the pile lightly. Gratitude for my year with them. Gratitude for their places in my heart. A wish for their safety and happiness.
I hope these relics of benediction are especially powerful.