poeming after an epiphany

Calling the Earth

He's sitting there, headless, on a throne of ancient stone.
He's patient. Serene. No effort. Calling the Earth to witness
the moment, his sudden returning (teshuva, bodhi, satori)
to what is and always was: awake and present in the moment.


So, before I wrote this short, simple little poem this morning (and it feels done, although it is very short and simplistic and some part of me is like, wait. That's it?), I started with this photo of the headless Buddha that I took on our wat tour adventure in Chiang Mai.

I incorporated it into one of my self-portraits while we were in Thailand, this little headless Buddha. I stood and communed with him for an endless moment.

I needed to remind myself which mudra (hand gesture) the Buddha in this photo is using. (Having taken an upper level class on Buddhism in University, you'd think I would remember, but no. Wikipedia is, as always, my friend.)

This is the "Earth witness" Buddha. It presents the moment when, as Mara was attacking him, trying to claim his level of enlightenment, the Buddha placed his right hand on the earth to call it to witness his truth. And that, as they say, was that. Mara dissipated. And Siddhartha became the Buddha (the awakened one) as he sat.

OK. So this is a story I'm familiar with. I may have forgotten this was that mudra, but I know the story of the enlightenment. But here's what I realized, in my link-hopping through wikipedia before (or as) I was writing this poem:

The awakening that the Buddha attained, sitting, is the same returning (to the original state of be-ing-ness that we all have at our core) that is embodied in the Hebrew term teshuva.

(Nirvana is a different thing. That's an attainment to the end of the cycle of death and rebirth, to the end of suffering. That's the Olam Ha-Ba in Judaism, the world without suffering. Bodhisattvas take a vow to help all others to attain nirvana before themselves, but they do so while enlightened. A Bodhisattva is the Buddhist equivalent of a Tzaddik.)

This interesting little intersection of words clarifies a lot to me, of how my interest and respect for Buddhism has remained, through my becoming Jewish.

In this moment of awakening, we have the example of one who simply is.

(Without some of the additional issues that traditional Judaism has, towards women and people of other faiths. And without some of the additional issues that traditional Buddhism has, too, towards women and people of other faiths!)

Oh, I knew this. I just didn't put it together like this. That's why it's poeming after an epiphany.

Let my teshuva merit awakening. Let me call the earth to be my witness. May we reach the promised land, together (a world without fear, without hunger, without war and suffering, without death).