Practiced by Linden, a four year old
A story retold by Mai Nguyen
I heard this story from Sr. Thoai Nghiem after she returned from leading a retreat in Devon, England. She said: I was recently visiting in the home of Helen and Martin Pitt and their four-year-old son, Linden. Helen told me this story.
“The weather was cold outside, and although we had the heat on in the house, it was still a bit chilly inside. I was in the kitchen, looking for some scissors. I couldn’t find them in the drawer. ‘That’s odd,’ I thought to myself. Then I had the frightening feeling that Linden had the scissors! I called out to my child. He didn’t answer. I called and I walked quickly through the rooms looking for him. I began to be quite concerned.”
I could see that the mother had been very worried about her child. It showed in her face even now, weeks later, as she told me the story.
“As you can see, Sister,” Helen continued, “on the table over there we have a wooden Buddha statue with a cloth covering the Buddha’s shoulders.”
I glanced at the lovely statue.
“Well,” Helen said, “When I stepped into the door of this room, I was stunned at what I saw. Linden had the scissors. He had cut a small jagged patch of his hair from the front of his head. I saw that he was placing his cut hair onto the head of the Buddha statue.”
“Oh hello Mummy,” Linden said when he saw me. “The Buddha is cold,” he said, “I hope my hair will keep him warm!” Helen laughed when she saw how funny her son looked with his new self-created hairstyle. Then she hugged him warmly. “I am deeply touched by your loving gesture to the Buddha,”
Helen said to her son, “even the Buddha in a wooden form.”
Mai Nguyen, Chan My, True Beauty, resides in London, England and is a recently ordained Dharma teacher and long-time student of Thich Nhat Hanh.
Practiced by Hu, a six year old
A story told by Thich Nhat Hanh
In A Pebble for your Pocket, Thay tells a story of a little boy who was confused about who and where the Buddha is. Thay says that Hu was six or seven years old when he asked his parents if he could become a monk. He became a student of Thay’s.
“When he first became a monk, Hu believed that the Buddha loved bananas, mangoes, and tangerines because every time people came to the temple, they brought bananas, mangoes, tangerines and other fruit, and placed them in front of the Buddha. In Hu’s little head that could only mean that the Buddha loved fruit very much.
“Hu imagined that the Buddha sat very still all day long, and when the hall was empty, he reached out for a banana. Hu waited and watched, hoping to see the Buddha take one of the bananas piled in front of him. He waited for a long time, but he did not see the Buddha pick up a banana. He was baffled. He could not understand why the Buddha did not eat any of the bananas that people brought to him.
“Hu did not dare ask the head monk, because he was afraid that the monk would think he was silly. Actually, we often feel like that. We do not dare ask questions because we are afraid we might be called silly. The same was true for Hu. And because he didn’t dare ask, he was confused. I think I would have gone to someone and asked. But Hu did not ask anyone.
“As he grew older, one day it occurred to him that the Buddha statue was not the Buddha! What an achievement! This realization made him so happy. But then a new question arose. ‘If the Buddha is not here, then where is he? If the Buddha is not in the temple, where is the Buddha?’ Every day he saw people come to the temple and bow to the statue of the Buddha. But where was the Buddha?
“I met Hu when he was fourteen, and he was still wondering about this. I explained to him that the Buddha is not far away from us. I told him that the Buddha is inside each one of us. Being a Buddha is being aware of what is inside of us and around us at every moment. Buddha is the love and understanding that we each carry in our hearts. This made Hu very happy.
“Anywhere you see love and understanding, there is the Buddha. Anyone can be a Buddha. Do not imagine that the Buddha is a statue or someone who has a fancy halo around his or her head or wears a yellow robe. A Buddha is a person who is aware of what is going on inside and around him or her and has a lot of understanding and compassion. Whether a Buddha is a man or a woman, young or not so young, a Buddha is always very pleasant and fresh.”