Monday, April 9, 2012

Cast in a New Light

Sojiji Temple, April 8, 2012
Yesterday was Hana Matsuri (Buddha's birthday) so I thought I would stop by and look in on the festivities at Sojiji Temple on my way to buy some ice cream for my Easter celebration later that day. That's when I saw him squarely within my field of vision, standing not five feet from the head of the entire  Soto Zen sect. Wrapped as usual in a tattered and stained tan ski jacket, he clutched a rolled up newspaper in his left fist. Then stretching out his right hand to reveal years of dirt beneath his fingernails, he took the bamboo ladle offered by a nearby monk and poured the pure crystal clear water it held over a small figure cast in the image of the infant Buddha. From where I stood he was an almost unearthly vision, showered in an ethereal light reflected off the golden Buddha that resides against the far wall of this immense eighteenth century wooden structure. 

I don't know why I was surprised to see him there. He's never where I think he should be. That's tending his fruit and vegetable store, one of the last mom and pop shops in Temple Valley. Dubbed "the vagabond vegetable vendor,"  for his appearance and the meager state of his poor vegetable emporium, he spends most of his working hours away from the store. 

If you want to buy one of the few dried oranges or sprouting onions dumped in the plywood bin that sits beneath the frayed awning of his weather beaten stall, you'll have to track him down. He could be just about anywhere though, standing inside the convenience store reading the latest news items fresh off the magazine rack, soaking up the rays of sun on one of the funky chairs that make up the local bus stop, or as he often does, sweeping from one end of this little valley to the other. 

There's really no telling where he could be, just where he isn't. I used to think that it was a miracle that he was able to stay in business. Now I know it is for sure, standing there in that heavenly light I came to the sudden realization that this vagabond vegetable vendor was among the truly blessed. 


  1. Many thanks for the reminder of Buddha's birthday and this post, which made me smile for many reasons...

    1. Yeah - I'm glad I attended the celebration. I guess I was reminded that:

      "The greatest wisdom is seeing through appearances."

      Atisha (11th century Tibetan Buddhist master)

  2. Miss the mom & pop vegetable stores, corner grocer, tea cafe, and restaurant in my old neighborhood, Inokashira-koen...

    1. They are kind of an endangered species where I live. My (impossible) dream is to open an organic dagashiya.