TOO MANY BUDDHAS

CRF1RT A wall with many buddhas in the new Chinese Temple Borum Racha in Bangkok, Thailand, Bangkok

DHARMA GLIMPSE BY RACHEL BECKER MAY 19 2021

When we packed up our belongings, I volunteered to take the alter, the decorations for the alter, and anything else that couldn’t be fit in other members’ spaces into my home.  I ended up with artificial orchids, small tables, and 4 Buddhas – 2 of them VERY large Buddhas.

Now don’t get me wrong, I like Buddha statues.  Before the new Buddhas arrived, I had a Buddha head statue in my fountain, a medium size Buddha, a small tabletop Buddha, a Buddha my daughter had brought me back from Cambodia, and a “many faces Buddha.”  This last Buddha is sort of like a globe-shaped structure with Buddha’s face repeating on the outside over and over.  It was a cool gift from That One Guy (TOG) along with the medium-size Buddha.  As far as Buddhas go, I felt like I was pretty well equipped.

Now, I have 4 more Buddhas.  I have the proud Buddha that sits on the alter during our gatherings (now virtual gatherings).  I have the beautiful metal flat Buddha that I can display from a high shelf in my hallway.  He actually looks pretty nice there.  Maybe I can negotiate some visits for him after The Fellowship finds our new home.  Then I have a 3-foot-tall white Buddha and a 3-foot-tall (and fairly wide) gold Buddha.  Gold statues have never been a favorite of mine.  I think that they look too flashy.  The humility I sense in a statue (particularly a Buddha statue) is lost when the statue is made of or painted gold.

The morning after the Buddhas arrived on the main floor of my home, I felt uncomfortable.  It seemed a little creepy to me, all these heavy-lidded eyes with serene faces.  I almost felt like I was being watched.   I know this concept makes no sense.  The Buddhas are statues, not beings!  Even if they were beings, their eyes are closed!  Still… I wonder.  Are they checking to see if I am meditating?  That I show gratitude for my meals?  That I am following the eightfold path?

I wonder about having so many Buddhas in the house.  COVID restrictions are slowly lifting, and people are showing up to visit.  What will they think of so many Buddhas?  What do I need so many Buddhas for?  Am I a Buddha worshipper?  What are all these idols?

As many of you probably already know, Buddha is not an idol.  He is not a god.  He’s just a guy who lived and then died.  While he was alive he shared valuable messages about life, suffering, and accountability.  He’s a great reminder for me to keep thinking, keep learning, and keep being kind.  With such valuable messages, why am I so worried about having too many Buddhas?

After the Buddhas arrived in my home, whenever I had a guest or handyman over I would say, “I’m a member of The Salt Lake Buddhist Fellowship.  We had to leave our gathering space and so I am watching the Buddhas until we find a new space.”  People would just smile.  Some would laugh.  Thinking about that statement I feel as if I am watching someone’s cat (or cats) while they travel on vacation.  Really I’m a host to these special Buddhas.  I get to keep them safe while we find their next home.  I am lucky to have these treasures that held space for our community for so long.

One morning a plumber arrived to do the yearly checkup of my pipes and water heater.  That morning, I let him in the door and I forgot to explain what I thought looked like a Buddha fetish.  When he was done doing his inspection he said, “I have to say, I love the art in your home.  It’s so eclectic.  All the Buddhas!  They’re really great!”  Now I was pleased with the Buddhas.  I was suddenly proud to have all these “eclectic” Buddhas adorning my home.  Would it be fair for me to suddenly claim it was my good taste that brought all these Buddhas to cohabitate with me?  I said, “Thank you!  The Buddhas are actually the property of The Salt Lake Buddhist Fellowship.  I am taking care of them while we find a new gathering space.”  “Well,” he said, “Buddha is just a little bit of everything.  He’s an eclectic guy.”  I laughed inside.  That made me think, “Buddha is just a collection of all different things?”  Buddha does remind me to be accepting of all things, including Buddha statues.  I guess the plumber was right.

When we find a space to gather again, we will pack up all the Buddhas and send them to their new home.  I know I will be sad to see them go.  I will be sorry I made excuses for them.  I do accept and appreciate them.  Maybe there really cannot be too many Buddhas. 

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