Saturday, September 15, 2012

Jizo bodhisattva

In Zen Buddhism, Jizo (Ksitigarbha in Sanskrit) is one of the most popular bodhisattvas. Bodhisattvas are so-called enlightened beings who choose to linger in the lands of those who suffer and lend a hand. 

Others will know more about bodhisattvas than I do. My take was always that they were suggestions or aspects of the human spirit. Kuan Yin was merciful; Manjusri was boundlessly wise; etc. And Jizo was a good egg who could be tougher than nails ... entering willingly into the realms of hell to defend the unfortunate and defeat the demons of greed and anger and ignorance.

Out in the zendo here, I have a keisaku that is more decorative than useful. A keisaku is a stick used to strike the shoulders of sometimes-inattentive students doing zazen, or seated meditation. On the keisaku in the zendo are Japanese characters quoting the Zen monk Ikkyu: "Easy to enter Nirvana. Difficult to enter difference." 

Nirvana is easy.

But the realms in which Jizo travels are not for spiritual sissies who are merely drawn forward by bright lights and cotton candy. These realms are hard and wide and hot and full of a fiery fury that sometimes masquerades as love. You know... the ordinary stuff.

'Good' Zen students are sometimes hell-bent for Nirvana.

Only their very own good-egg companion Jizo could rescue them from such a hell.

The hell we choose is the heaven we seek.

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