I once owned a netsuke – a Japanese ornament, about the size of a walnut, made of ivory, and traditionally worn on a leather tassle suspended from one’s belt. It opened to reveal the delicately carved figure of a Buddhist monk, seated cross-legged, holding in his hands, and contemplating, a miniature lotus flower.
The lotus is a familiar Buddhist symbol. The deeper the mud in which it grows the more lustrously it blooms, a metaphor for the way we can transform the dirt and difficulties of life to create value and beauty.
One of the great Upanishads proclaims:
In the centre of the castle of Brahman, our own body, there is a small shrine in the form of a lotus flower and within it can be found a small space. We should find who dwells there and want to know him. For the whole universe is in him and he dwells within our heart.
To find that presence within us, to discover the lotus flower, calls for endless patience and perseverance. Often our meditation may seem pointless, dry, full of distraction, our thoughts buzzing like blue-bottles but, just as it requires endless patience to train a puppy, so, too, we have to be patient with our unruly minds. Repeatedly we have to remind ourselves: Be still and know…..