My landlord put a Buddha on the back deck of the house I’m renting. This statue is about two feet tall at most, a slender Indian Buddha, not the jolly fat Chinese kind, and he has a seam on his right shoulder that shows where he was broken out of a mold. He’s a mass-produced Buddha.
A few weeks ago, I was sitting for meditation after my yoga practice and noticed that his hands were in dhyana mudra, which I was about to use to center my mind. (Imagine the classic thumb-to-first-finger jnana mudra joined by sliding the hands together so the tips of the thumbs and the nails of the first fingers touch.) Dhyana means concentration, the most difficult stage in yoga for many people, myself included.
His eyes are closed and he has an infinitely subtle Buddha smile, an expression that somehow conveys deep and effortless focus, immersion in what Buddhists call “lovingkindness.” As I sat with my eyes open, held the mudra and gazed at him, I felt the peace and stillness of that smile. I’ve never used any kind of spiritual or religious imagery for meditation, so I found this effect intriguing. I’m an extravert by nature, and I wondered if this mirror of true inwardness was what I needed, or if I was just borrowing serenity.
Over time I’ve started to feel my mind fall into quietude from a mere glance at the Buddha, whether he’s glowing in the moonlight or showering in a thunderstorm. I like to think that the artist who made the original put something special in that face, and understood that mudra. It makes me glad this Buddha is mass-produced. Somewhere, someone else is smiling back at him. Hundreds of people, hundreds of smiles, petals of peace in a single flower.