While preparing notes for a lesson for this coming Sunday I recalled the story of Winston Churchill’s Buddha statue. It is a peculiar story, showing up in anecdotes and talks in a variety of different forms depending on who is telling it. It goes something like this:
Winston Churchill kept a Buddha statue by his bedside, or on his desk throughout the Second World War. Some versions of the story explain his reasoning for doing so, while others will even evoke words of Mister Churchill himself, and recall the serenity the peace that the statue gave him during the most trying of times.
None go so far to claim that Winston Churchill was a Buddhist; and that is not really the point. The story is trying to get at those self-evident elements of Buddhism that change minds and move mountains; things like compassion and harmlessness that sit on the surface of Buddhism, inspiring many to delve deeper, but moving far more people simply by their presence.
Its a great story; but it is the kind of story that sounds like a story. So I decided to see if I could get to the bottom of it! Read more
I am at my parents’ home for the weekend, and aside from (1) marveling at the amazing interior decoration that they’ve done in the past six months and (2) not meditating for over 24 hours, I’ve noticed that there’s one thing missing. What happened to that statue that I left behind when I moved to Los Angeles?
Apparently, it was never fixed. My dad just chucked it in the trash. In case you’re jumping to any conclusions about my father, it was his mother who inspired my Buddhist practice (as well as that of my brothers). So he knew how important the statue was to me, but I’m guessing he just didn’t want to fix it.
This conclusion is pretty disappointing for me. I would have rather gone with Plan A and placed the statue behind one of the downtown temples. Maybe not so much because it’s a “Buddhist” thing to do, but because there is some comfort in knowing that there’s a time-tested tradition you can follow when you don’t know what to do. Maybe next time…
Sabbe sankhara anicca, sabbe sankhara anatta…
On a Vesak celebration four years ago, a monk presented me with a Buddha statue to thank me for my service in the community. It was a typical statue of Lord Buddha sitting with legs folded, made of white plaster and set in a mold that the monk himself had crafted with his own hands. It was relatively large — bigger than a basketball — and heavy. A year later, when I unpacked the statue from a cross-country move, I found it broken in two.
I was faced with a personally unfamiliar dilemma (related to a previous post): What do you do with a broken Buddhist statue?
According to one gardener: “When a household statue of Buddha is broken, it cannot be thrown away. Instead, it is left at the base of a Bodhi tree.”
What if you don’t have a Bodhi tree?
Why can’t you throw it away?