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t a k i n g   s h a d e   w i t h   b u d d h a

b y    m a r k   m u r p h y


 
Of all the dense vegetation in this wild country
I have come to take shade with Buddha
(though he is equally at ease in sun or shadow)
under the bent branches of the Bodhi tree.
 
Frankly, it is not the best spot to make camp,
break the night’s fast,
or break the habits of a life-time
but Buddha seems at home, like a man who has lived
 
irreverent aeons alone – he makes a welcome as only he can –
confident of my comings and goings, naked
as one new born, sure that living is its own answer,
he offers figs for my hunger.
 
Slowly then, Buddha savours the morning air
as though it were sustenance enough
while the first light bakes the land
and each man and beast in the field is busy with the crop.
 
Already, I am in at the deep-end with my questions:
what if the knowledge of trees is no knowledge at all –
and if the trees should support the sky no more,
and the deliberate hush in the night really is the end, then what?
 
But Buddha is having none of it. And indeed, why should he trouble,
being at one, as he is, with forest, sky and the hallowed ground.
And by and by a talkative brook bothers the shadows
and Buddha is smiling – pleased at the sound of water on stone.
 
For an instant, he is like a child who has found his mother’s hand
in some crowded place and then a moment later
he is old all over again like a being who has lived many lives.
Buddha breathes deeply. He breathes in the universe.

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