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What's That Buddha Man Doing?

There’s a new small Buddha statue in our apartment. After years of sitting in front of nothing, I decided to put together a shrine of sorts. As it turns out, all that advice to do so was valuable. There’s something more dedicated about the practice when you make even a small effort at setting up your sitting space.

 

My son, who is 2 ½, came home and saw the new statue, which I’d put up on a bookshelf for the time being, and immediately asked, “Who’s that man?”

I said, “That the Buddha.”

“What that Buddha man doing?”

“Well, he’s sitting quietly and listening.”

“We should put Buddha man on the table, not the shelf.”

I complied. Buddha Man was placed on the coffee table.

“What’s he doing?”

“He’s still listening.”

My son studied him for a while, curious, then closed his eyes and took a deep breath.

“I hear a helicopter,” he said.

“Me, too,” I said. “And I hear a clock.”

“I hear the clock!”

In recent weeks, we’d played a game I called “Sounds,” in which we close our eyes and say what we hear. But we’d never done it with a statue of a Buddha. He connected the two on his own.

After a few moments, my son got up, went to find his cup of water and placed it next to the statue. He then took a cup of dried beans he’d be playing with the day before and scattered those around the statue as well, as a kind of offering. I was blown away.

My Buddha statue had been in our house for only a few hours, and a toddler was already deeply engaged with him, putting it in a prime location, offering it food and water, and sitting before it listening to “sounds.” Is there power in an icon, even to those who cannot know what it means? Evidently so.

I still struggle with the teachings of the Buddha. We all do. But I know one thing for certain. The Buddha Man is doing something.

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