The following is a sketch written while my wife Alexandra and I were in Santa Fe, New Mexico, last week to celebrate her birthday.
It’s morning for us as we stride along a country road. We are four: you and I, of course, but also Namu and Sahaja.
Our first dog has been renamed–and isn’t that an act of conversion?–Namu. In “The Meaning of Namu Amida Butsu,” Richard St. Clair tells us:
Namu Amida Butsu has two parts: “Namu” means “I take refuge”, and “Amida Butsu” means “in Amida Buddha.”
That is one great meaning of the Nembutsu. It is the BASIC meaning.
For the person who is seeking salvation, the Nembutsu means “Save me, Amida Buddha.” It means that the seeker is opening her/himself to Amida’s saving Light and Compassion. It is the seeker responding to Amida’s Call and opening him/herself to Amida Buddha’s Other Power.
And our second dog, at 5 months now, carries within herself the key to salvation. In sahaja samadhi, one, being the All, is free, so free as to be as natural as the wind, as glorious as the sky, as becoming as the dawn. One shivers without shivering, unmoved, unmoving save, Ramana Maharshi’s life attests, by the suffering of other beings.
May Namu be a light unto others, and may Sahaja realize the great depth of her name!
On the road, we met David, which in the Hebrew means “beloved,” as well as his Dickensian dog Pippin. It was less what he conveyed in his words and more what he presented in his demeanor, and that was age, matter of factness, gravitas. He was here.
On our way home, an old woman in a blue bath robe gently chastised one of her dogs who’d come running off leash and who was, as she averred, friendly. Soon her husband arrived, and both offered a tableau of the hardscrabble life of homesteaders in the valley near Canoncito. Thirty-eight years ago, they came and settled here. Their house, quaint enough yet by no means elegant, is situated next to a creek that has–increasingly–carried precious little water during this 100 year drought. I found them–also old and, in a good sense here, resigned–to be quietly, perhaps also poetically heroic.
Dear Alexandra, we like, don’t we?, meeting people like this. Meek and mild. Moderate and without pretense. Simple, wry, candid, and hearty. Let those we meet be called “hardihood” or, to coin a neologism, “hearty-hood.”