Finding a Buddha is like finding a husband. "You have to look him in the eye and decide if he's the right one for you," said Yvonne. Photo credit: Jacques Carcanagues Gallery
I was ambling along Greene Street in Soho a few weeks ago. Walking aimlessly, no real plan in mind. It was March but felt like May. Sunny, deliciously warm, one of those days when anything is possible.
I almost missed Jacques Carcanagues—but a flash in the window, I don’t know what, caught my eye.
Years ago I had walked in another door and had fallen head over heels for a gilded Mandalay Buddha. He was slim, elegant, even handsome, with a distant gaze and a mysterious smile. Bare feet on the floor, he stood taller than I did.
I caught my breath. It was like encountering an old almost forgotten friend in an unexpected place and feeling little bubbles of happiness trickle up from the heart.
The price was impossible. It was the Buddha or a year’s tuition for Angus and Serendipity. I left with a Polaroid photo (remember those?) in hand.
But I’ve never forgotten him. And now, here I was again…
…in another place at another time. I wandered through Carcanagues’ treasure house of Asian antiquities, searching but not finding what I was looking for.
There were Buddhas from half a dozen Asian countries. But my Buddha wasn’t there.
Yvonne eyed me curiously. “Looking for a Buddha,” she said. “It’s like choosing a husband. You have to look him in the eye and decide if he’s the right one for you.” I sighed. “You’re right, of course…and I’m afraid I don’t see the one for me.”
I turned to leave. She called after me, ”What about that one?”
Photo credit: Jacques Carcanagues Gallery
I turned my head the other way. Hidden in the shadows, standing on a painted Tibetan chest, was a gilded Mandalay Buddha. He wasn’t my Buddha, but he might have been a younger cousin.
Like his older, wiser relative, this Buddha's face was serene. His eyes gazed downward, but there was a flicker of mirth dancing in them. A gentle smile hovered around his lips. His ear lobes were so long they grazed his shoulders.
He was slim and elegant, not quite as tall as I am. His robe, gracefully cascading in folds over his chest, was bordered with “jewels” twinkling silver and green. The draperies rippled just above his ankles.
His fingers were long and tapered. In one hand he seemed to hold the edge of his robe, or was he making the varada mudra which represents generosity and the granting of wishes? In the other he held something small and oval.
“It’s a myrobalan,” said Yvonne. “A medicinal fruit. He’s a healing Buddha.”
Well, you know what happened.
The Buddha arrived a week later. I intended to place him on the hall table so we could see him whenever we walked downstairs or passed by on the way to the garden, the kitchen, the library or the front door. It’s a sort of crossroads in our house.
But the old Chinese table, its feet eaten away by floods in the Yangstse River Valley, wasn’t steady enough to hold him.
So he’s been standing next to the table, bare feet on a carved lotus throne. And though it’s not exactly the right spot for him, he is, as B remarked, settling in nicely. The best part is that instead of looking up at him, we're almost at eye level.
I’ve noticed that when friends stop by, they touch him on the arm or the hand or even on his unisha, the large protuberance on top of his head which shows superior wisdom. I’m not sure this is proper behaviour with a Buddha, but his heart is generous and he smiles at our frailties.
And when I come downstairs early in the morning, as the sky is just beginning to glow, I pause for a moment and find myself putting my arm around his narrow shoulders.
“Good morning,” I whisper. “And welcome home.”