Open/Close: Mandala of Compassion
On a certain day, at a certain place and at a certain time, when my light is just right, I look over at the mother sitting across from me on the CTrain. She is beautiful to me - yes she is beautiful to me in the conventional sense, but more importantly for this moment, not like that. I regard her in the sunlight for a moment, then I want to ask her about the scarf that frames her countenance. I’d like to know how the patterned chrysanthemums seem to be blooming from the oval formed from the upturned corners of her mouth and the downward curl of her eyes. I won’t ask but I will smile. I love her.
On another day, at another place and time, there is an old man standing in front of me waiting for the light to turn so we can cross the street. He has laced dignity into his shoes up through white socks pulled tight up around his ankles. He is beautiful to me. I want to rest my hand between his shoulder blades and, standing beside him, ask him where he’s heading in those shoes, with the tattered leather tassles. I want to know so I can take his hand and walk with him. But I don’t ask; instead I will hold the door open behind me and leave just the edge of my shy smile, looking back. I love him.
When I gazed at the completed mandala I felt how I do when I see these people. There is so much beauty and love in the world that is circumscribed by their lives; there is a circle around them that they illuminate through the little things - their unaffected gestures, the way their bodies are held, the unnoticed cadences and syncopation woven into their actions. The value of their lives can be seen even without really knowing who they are - it is self evident. I don’t need to know where it comes from - the light is simultaneously its own source and emanation. To feel this is a great mercy. Ah but what of my thirst for knowing?!
Every other day, and every other place there is a woman I have come to know well. There is so much more to know and my questions flow from me. I mingle them with answers of my own. I know the melody of her smile, but I want to know the rhythm. I know the lyrics of her steps but I want to dance to the music. My own heartbeat is deafening and I can’t hear anything else. My heart breaks! I know she’s beautiful and I love her.
Every other minute there is a man I know so well. I’ve asked him all of the questions I could think of until now. I know why he grins and why he runs. He knows why I smirk and why I walk. The strands of our mutual knowing are braided into a rope of deep, ancient memories we both hold. After so long my fingers have become numb and standing so far from me it is hard to see him, but I hold onto my end. My heart aches! I know he’s beautiful and I love him.
Where am I in all of this? I am alive and so I travel towards knowing. I don’t know much. I have no answers from which to brew a panacea for the exquisite pain that accompanies living. But through my natural step, the way I cock my head, the way I shape my fingers, the way my eyes ignite when I’m really seeing, the way I dance - there is a source-less and self-perpetuating wisdom that lights my path and tells me I should not give up. It’s okay that my spirit feels hunger and thirst. I should forgive myself for not having the certainty of satiation. Only when I lay down that burden will I be light enough to keep walking, and mingle my light with the beautiful people all around me, loving.
-Jordan Baylon (1/12/2013)
(Photographs: These are the itinerant monks of Dzongkar Cheode Tibetan Buddhist Monastery. Leading them is Lama Jampa Sopa, abbot and teacher, and master of Buddhist mandala arts and Tibetan Buddhist rituals. Five monks laboured together over the course of five days to create from memory an intricate meditation on compassion out of coloured sand. After the completed mandala is consecrated with a prayer, it is ritualistically destroyed, the sand swept up and dispersed into flowing water.)