He was sitting under a tree that was occasionally delivering golden autumn leaves at his feet. It was in the small square near the Melbourne Buddhist Centre. My first impression was that he might be a lonely man. How quickly judgments and labels arise !
I have to remind myself to totally disregard them as I learn time and time again that they rarely bear any resemblance to the truth.
I sit firstly on the only other wooden bench in the square. Breathe in, breathe out … widen perspective …Indra’s Net…who is this jewel am I about to meet?
Feet now moving and legs propelling me to go and sit right next to him with a bag of Buddhas in hand.
” Hello, some friends from around the world have given me some gifts to share with people in Australia. Can I show you them and to see if you would like one?”
At first there is hesitancy. I can tell he is a polite man not used to rejecting others.
So I open the bag of Buddhas quickly and his eyes fall on them and he says, ” Oh, they are lovely.’
He is too polite to reach out and touch them but I follow his eyes to a tiny green Thai Buddha enclosed in a little case.
“That one was given to a friend of mine many years ago by someone who got it from Thailand. My friend recently gave it to me to pass on ….would you like it? ”
He picked it up and carefully rotated it through his fingers as he told me all about his son who is currently working in Thailand teaching English to small children.
I introduce myself as Maitri, hoping its easier to remember and use in our conversation.
He offers his name and his hand to shake.
There are often certain magical moments in the street metta pilgrimage where somehow a rich, relaxed, kind space opens up. It’s like we’ve learnt to dance as unencumbered human beings together- the boundaries and defences have dropped. There is a flow and and ease in a very bearable lightness of ‘being.’
I know that I might never see this man again and I know it doesn’t matter. This moment of gentle presence between two human beings is enough.
We discuss the vast potential that each little Buddha represents. I ask him if he has someone to give the Buddha to. He tells me about his daughter.
” She’s very shy.” he says.
He wonders if the shyness will stop her reaching her full capabilities.
This endpoint a universal wish for most parents.
He hopes the Buddha will give her courage to go beyond what she thinks she is capable of right now. Before we part, I ask him why he was sitting in the square today. He tells me he was passing time until his mate comes to meet him to go for lunch.
So my first thought on seeing him sitting alone in the square was ,of course, wrong.
He wasn’t lonely. I smile in the knowledge that he also now has a Buddha in his pocket on its way to his daughter.
His parting gift to me is a big smile and a warm handshake and he wishes me well on the pilgrimage.
Buddha donated by Akashamani, Port Fairy Australia