“Buddha sitting under the bodhi tree…”
“…watches as a leaf blows by.”
As I was sitting in sesshin, earlier this month, the line came to my thoughts. The imagery too vivid and enticing to release, I held onto the picture of the Buddha sitting under the bodhi tree for a portion of the long sit but my focus was less on the Buddha and more on the tree.
“Buddha sitting under the bodhi tree watches as a branch falls from high.”
With fall unfolding around us, I visualized myself as the tree. Arms and mind branching out above with roots deeply sunk below, an seemingly immortal figure but subject to relentless time and the ravages of age. Each leaf was a small representation of my self. The self of “dad” blooms flourishes and eventually will dry out and fall to the ground. Each moment an empty husk. Each moment is surrounded by a pile that arose, glimmered briefly and then softly fell to the ground. The person next to me is a similar tree surrounded by his shed leaves – his former selves. Like dead skin cells that fall from my body and becomes dust; each self is devoid of permenance.
“Buddha sitting under the bodhi tree watches as a fox slowly dies.”
A veritable forest of trees looming over the decaying remnants piles of our self. Forgotten categories that are swept up into piles, trampled into the dirt or blown away in the wind. Each discarded self served its purpose, rustled and radiated, then with a gentle snap falls – it’s only lasting purpose to nourish the tree as it stands still and observant of its own impermanence.
I am surrounded and nourished by each moment that passes, each lesson learned each layer sloughed off. Each bloom of self is eventually shed.
“Old man Buddha stood up, brushed off his legs, picked up a rake and began working,”
Realized that moments, like birds flitting from branch to branch, have a unique and transient beauty. The leaves that sway in the breeze do not define me. I cannot define the forest. But my action, without attachment, helps to determine what follows. My effort holds the potential of the moment but not its permamence. All practice is effort and all effort is practice. Leaves will always fall.
“humming to himself the song of trees.”