We acknowledged Hanamatsuri last Thursday, April 8: the Flower Festival in our Soto Zen stream, celebrating the birth of Shakyamuni Buddha. Most spiritual traditions have a celebration of birth (and rebirth/renewal), and Zen is no different. If we had been together physically, we would have celebrated in the traditional way, by circling a statue of baby Buddha surrounded by flowers, pouring sweet tea over it and chanting as we walk.
Last Thursday, I just had baby Buddha pictured here nearby me as we sat together via Zoom.
Shame on you Shakyamuni for setting
of leaving home.
Did you think it was not there –
in your wife’s lovely face
or your baby’s laughter?
Did you think you had to go elsewhere
to find it?
I am here to show you
that you needn’t step
even one sixteenth of an inch away – stay
here – elbows dripping with soapy water
stay here – spit up all over your chest
stay here – steam rising in lazy curls from
cream of wheat
Poor Shakyamuni – sitting under the Bo tree
miles away from home
Venus shone all the while
Women have long been unacknowledged for their historical dedication and contributions to the Zen tradition. (I included “Ship of Compassion” is in our Sutra book, in part, because it is one of the relatively few, ancient verses we know was composed by a female Zen practitioner.) Through the efforts of many women teachers and leaders today, this is beginning to change. A recent San Francisco Zen Center program on this topic may be of interest, as may this book of new, “householder koans” by two senior women teachers in our White Plum lineage.