Medicine Buddha, the embodiment of healing power, the original Blue Man, is part of our Thursday Night Meditation butsudan. There is no particular reason why this Buddha has become our central point on the alter, but I've come to really appreciate its inclusion.
There have been times when those sitting were curious about the symbolism, but ultimately, in the Zen tradition, it could just as easily be a mirror--the elements on the butsudan assist in reminding us of the elements of Zazen and our practice. As in the process of alchemy, our senses are stimulated by the flame of a candle, the odor of incense, the purity of water, the sound of a bell, the presence of living flowers that will, in time, die. All contribute to the gateway of being in our True Nature, in the Ground of our Being.
In our bowing, we are connecting with our True Nature. In our Zazen, we are transformed as living, practicing Buddhas.
We are "Buddha-ing"!
Last Thursday, before I packed up our "Moveable Feast", tucking all the elements of the butsudan back into the
basket, one of the meditators draped a string of green beads around Medicine Buddha's neck. I think it was meant to be a stealth offering, so I continued talking to a group of people and closing windows.
Later, when I did pack everything up, I kept thinking I had seen these beads before, but I just couldn't remember. They seemed so familiar....
It wasn't until I was in bed that night that it dawned on me--they were Mardi Gras beads! Those garish plastic strands that are thrown by the fist-full from parade floats! Truly decked out in his finery, Medicine Buddha will look pretty spiffy next week on the butsudan.