Four shiny faces suddenly formed a curtain of youth in front me. In a semi circle these high school students momentarily closed off my view of Fed Square and its inhabitants.

After alighting from the tram I had been sitting in the weak autumn sun for only 10 minutes when they approached.

I was doing the third stage of our loving kindness practice and had connected with a sense ease and patience.  I was quite happy to sit and wait.  I knew something would happen, something would become obvious and in the magical way that now almost seems normal on these pilgrimage walks,  some buddhas in my pocket would  find a new home.

Its funny because usually I  am the one usually sensing into who who is a likely candidate to give a buddha to but now turning the tables they had identified me as a likely suspect …..and with confidence in numbers they delivered their request.

Very politely these four high school students asked if I would mind completing a survey. Their teacher had given them an hour to roam the square asking people questions about the city’s homeless community. They were from a school not far from where I used to teach.

As they asked their questions I really had to reflect and try and clearly explain my answers. Their answer categories would not budge to accommodate my insistence that these situations were usually more complex than agree, strongly agree, disagree, strongly disagree. Complex situations required complex answers sometimes.

First question…..Do people sometimes choose homelessness?

I introduced myself more fully ( pulling out my kesa from under my jumper) and told them what I had discovered talking to people I met on my pilgrimage who were homeless. Some of these people had told me they had chosen to be on the streets rather than the shelters provided, others couldn’t wait to get into a shelter and still others, in the grip of addiction, did not feel they had a choice about anything in life anymore.   Previous and current conditions having an effect. Complex.

Which box to tick?

I talked about how I had noticed my response to the complexity of a human beings’ conditions was to try to be aware, present and kind. And of course where possible try to support strategies that could provide as many safe choices as possible for people  to move towards their potential.

After finishing the survey,  unfortunately there was no time to talk more about what opinions and views these young adults were already forming about the homeless situation.

I enjoy connecting with the earnest ideals of youth. Often refreshing, passionate and sometimes very uncompromising . I would have enjoyed listening.

However, before they left I rolled out my bag of ten buddhas and and asked if they would like one. Again, as I witness time and time again, they instantly knew which Buddha was intended for them.

One of them picked up White Tara and guessed correctly that it might be ‘healing.’

Two chose earth touching Buddhas with the lovely quality of grounded confidence.

And finally an Avalokitesvara ( goddess of compassion) necklace went with the last student.

We talked for a while about these Buddhas’ qualities. These young women seemed interested and genuinely pleased to be the next caretakers of figures representing these beautiful qualities.


Buddhas provided by Padmasiddhi, Pam, Vimuttinandi, Chris

…..all from Melbourne