Trash Day and Buddha
I took my trash to the landfill drop-off point near my home this morning – a regular Saturday morning chore for me. I like the guys at the drop-off point. They are in their mid-20s, polite and ambitious in their work. We have brief conversations until the next vehicle rolls up and they have to get back to work. I sometimes bring them coffee, or give them extra money to buy some for themselves. Throwing other people’s garbage all day isn’t easy, and I appreciate them.
But that isn’t my story. Today, as one of the men grabbed my trash bags from the back of my truck, another car pulled up behind me. The second man rushed to help a man pull trash bags from his car. But as I paid the first man for my trash, I noticed the second man carrying a statue to the dumpster. I saw the pointed, snail-covered head of the statue and called out.
“Wait! Is that a Buddha?”
The garbage man stopped, his arms cradling the statue.
I looked at the man who had pulled up behind me. “You’re throwing away Buddha?”
He looked down, and nodded. He had a look of shame on his face. I felt compassion for him and wondered what brought him to this point, to allow Buddha to become one with the landfill.
Use Your Inside Buddha
I am not a Buddhist. I was raised in the Catholic religion and even as a child rebelled against it. I’ll tell you about it someday. I am affiliated with no formal religious group, and have tolerance and respect for all. John Hogan states his opinions about Buddhism here, bringing up the fact that Buddha abandoned his wife and child to begin his path to enlightenment. But he goes on to admit he has a statue of Buddha on his bookcase. I understand. The true interpretation of a statue or a phrase or a verse lies inside the individual, private and unchallenged.
Life has allowed me to understand that love and kindness transcends religion. I haven’t studied Buddhism in depth – or any other formal religion. I like the stories of Buddha, the man. Really, I love the idea that 108 snails protected Buddha’s bald head while he sought enlightenment as much as I love the story of St. Francis and the hungry wolf. Whether they are legends created by cultish followers, or truths – it doesn’t matter to me. I’m a writer. I can appreciate the writing. They all have messages that can be considered as lessons in our life paths. We take them and ponder them and apply them in some way to ourselves. One of Buddha’s quotations regarding the power of thought hangs on my living room wall. The quotation means a lot to me, as I believe we create our own personal world through thought.
Throwing away Buddha? It just seemed so – wrong.
“Can I have him?” I asked the man.
“He’s broken, “ he replied.
I didn’t care.
When the man nodded his approval, I thanked him and wished him a good weekend. Somehow, he seemed relieved. The garbage man brought the statue to me and smiled as he handed him over. “I’m glad,” he said. “This is good.”
Landfill Buddha is only made of a hard paper mache product, which means he could have easily become one with the landfill. His nose is scraped white and the bowl that sits on his lap has no bottom. Now he holds a softball-sized piece of rose quartz. His eyes are closed in meditation, and he sits comfortably in the single lotus position, on the desk in my living room. He faces the front door so he might offer a vibration of peace to visitors.
I can almost hear him say, “How wonderful! How wonderful! All things are perfect, exactly as they are.”