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Reclining Buddha— Continued

October 24, 2013

by Stephen Damon

A couple of days after I put up my last post, my friend died as peacefully as she had lived. On my next shift at the Guest House I noticed that the door to her room was closed, even though there was no one inside.  This was very unusual as all the doors to our resident’s rooms remain open unless a person wants her privacy or is sleeping. For some reason that I couldn’t understand, this closed-door seemed like an invitation to come inside.

I opened the door and felt a strong presence that I would describe as a “fullness of being” so I bowed the way I do when I enter holy spaces such as a Zendo, closed the door behind me, and took a seat on the big easy chair beside her bed where she sat the first time we met.  Taking in a deep breath I noticed a subtle fragrance that I couldn’t quite place. I wondered if it came from the open window beside the bed or if it came from something else.  Indeed, most of my thoughts were attempts to understand this “something else.”

The pictures of my friend as a young woman and the pictures of her grown daughters as young girls were gone.  So were the songbooks that had been scattered about.  But the room looked beautiful and seemed full of life, and I felt as if I had walked into a garden of sorts.  I felt that I needed to take in my impressions as deeply as I could so I decided to sit Zazen for a few minutes.  My friend was no longer in the room but I could feel her loving and peaceful presence just the way I did when I held her hand.  Actually, the room felt more “full” and more “holy” than it did the week before.  How was this possible?

Of course my mind could not explain why I felt these kinds of things, but that was okay.  I think that any explanation would’ve only lessened the impact of what was going on around me. Any reference to a teaching about death, such as The Tibetan Book of the Dead, would have taken me away from my experience of “something else” that filled the room. This mysterious presence felt like a vast immensity that engulfed me.  It may sound strange to say, but I felt as if I had been taken into its womb.  Yes, that was it—death was not the end of life—it was something new and complete unto itself. How wonderful!

I got up, and rearranged the pillows on which I had been sitting.  There was no altar with a Buddha statue like the one I bow to every morning, but there was a “holy presence” and I had to bow more deeply than before.  So I did three full prostrations, facing an open window.  When I got up everything looked like it did before, but I felt that everything had changed.  With a tear running down my left cheek I quietly said goodbye to my friend and left the room.



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