Saigon Lady taught me about Life and Buddhism tonight.
Saw the cashier at the Conshohocken, PA, Target store, and called her by the only name I’ve known her, “Saigon Lady.” I have never seen someone shed the years from her face as this small Vietnamese woman did in a matter of seconds, changing from a 40-something working class woman to the cutest kid you ever had the luck to spend time with on a playground.
She became animated and full of smiles after I approached her check out counter around 9:30 Thursday night, a full 90 minutes before she could call it quits and go home to her family in Philadelphia.
“It’s you,” she said, her entire demeanor lighting up, recalling our chat shortly after Christmas and our brief exchange about Buddhism. “I looked for you, but haven’t seen you.”
“I looked for you too,” I said, feeling like a kid myself. This woman, who left Vietnam for the United States years ago, has helped me to forgive myself, forgive my part in a senseless war in her country, which is now a trading partner with the US and Europe. It will be many more years before parts of their land will be habitable again, but the people are making progress.
And I found a friend whose words of wisdom rivaled those of the most learned Holy Men or Woman I have ever met.
“What branch of Buddhism do you follow?” I asked. “Mahayana or Theravada?” I followed up, trying to show my newly acquired book knowledge on Buddhists.
“In Vietnam, there is only one Buddha,” she said.
I nodded, bowed and clasped my hands together in a show of respect. She returned my smile and beamed more brightly than I had seen her shine earlier.
There is only one Buddha. She is so right. And he resides in each and every one of us . . .
Thank you for such enlightenment, my Saigon Lady. I’ll pay it forward.
About a year ago I felt a little disconcerted when my Buddhist group brought in a guest speaker who talked about the differences between Mayahana and Theravada. Up until that point I mistakenly though Buddhism was free of the religious in-fighting so many other religions have disintegrated to. The discussion took a turn toward best ways to meditate, and I realized at that point I would never be one or the other. Half my meditations turn into Christian prayer. It’s what I’m used to, and I think that’s OK. Before turning to Buddhism I was attracted to Quakerism because of their belief that all of us have ‘that of God’ within– meaning it doesn’t matter what form or religion you follow if you follow the spirit inside. I still feel that way, which is why I can easily call myself a Zen Christian as you put it so early on. I can’t label my religion. It doesn’t fit neatly in a box. Buddhism is a great way to connect with my inner spirit, that’s all. Each of us needs to find our own way whether it means meditating on breath or on compassion or praying for guidance, or dancing like a dervish.
Don’t tell any of my diehard Buddhist friends, but I see the Buddha as a “guide” to get to heaven on earth, and Buddhism not so much a “religion,” but a way to seek and find our true and higher selves.
A guide for me and you to become “enlightened” in our lifetime. Permanently. And if we can’t stay in Nirvana all of the time, (who but a Buddha can?) let him be a guide for us to momentarily “taste” enlightenment and find the wisdom to want to return over and over again. With or without other beliefs such as the one we share from Catholicism, and some others I picked up “whirling.”
Buddha never turned his back on Hinduism, did he? Why should we turn away from the good Mother that first introduced us to our spiritual selves?
Quakerism? Might give that a try. My spirit inside craves variety.
One it is!
One and only one.
Peace fills one nicely,