A Small Test of the Buddha Mind

Nothing, absolutely nothing went as meticulously planned. Almost every aspect of my Tokyo experience was a disappointment or challenge of an order that tested every ounce of grace I could muster while trying to maintain a Buddha mind.

Even so I had an amazing experience. It was not unlike going to a restaurant wishing to eat a certain dish and the chef sends out something else. It was not what I ordered and not what I really, really, really was dying to eat; however, it was beyond delicious.

When I disembarked from Air Canada flight 004 I was well rested. I’d had a great sleep, I was in wonderful spirits, and I had a deep level of serenity (good thing) in spite of facing a 6-hour layover in an empty airport with only a Starbucks, a couple of junk food joints and one newsstand open. I got through Customs without any difficulty after which I was directed to the Quarantine Officer to my right.

Wishing to fully understand what I would face on my return (which was significantly different from what I could enjoy in Tokyo), I’d read the Federal Quarantine Order. It contained comprehensive pointers, but not everything I might or might not be permitted to do was clearly spelled out.

I approached the officer with a smile and a cheery good morning. He handed me a piece of paper and sternly told me that I was now under a federally ordered quarantine, to go straight home and follow the instructions on the sheet.

Thinking I’d get Brownie points for my thoughtfulness I said: Thank you. I read the quarantine order online before I left Tokyo. However, I have a couple of questions.

Yes, go ahead.

Am I permitted to be alone in my car and go for a drive?

No. Stay at home means stay at home. What if you had an accident? What if you ran out of gas?

This was delivered in a tone that said: What part of stay at home do you not understand?

First, though I refrained from saying so, the document does not say to stay at home. The sheet he handed me read: Go directly to your place of quarantine without delay and stay there for 14 days from the date you arrive in Canada. Do not go into community settings.

Second, there are many types of places where one might be quarantined which are not addressed in the instructions. Parts of the order deal with what to do if more than one person lives in that place; however, the directions make numerous assumptions and are somewhat vague.

Third, the document spells out how to fill up with gas if you are driving yourself to your “place of quarantine.” That “what if” is covered. As for accidents, those can happen in any “place of quarantine” as easily as on the road. The logic of his answer didn’t fly.

My lips were Buddha’s lips, but in that moment I was not quite of Buddha mind.

There is nothing like a uniformed toad with a particular presumption of his own privilege and demigod, daddy-o mindset whose most vigorous form of exercise in the past 40 years has been wagging his finger at others to test the Buddha mind.

I had other legitimate questions but refrained from asking any of them. He’d only think me an impertinent smart ass. It was safer to plead ignorance after the fact should I ever need to do so. Instead, I said with much more sweetness than was in my heart: Sir, please understand that I am not challenging you. I am merely clarifying what the rules are—exactly—so that I can be sure to obey them and not make mistakes.

Even though the intel on this particular virus, it’s character and measures we should take to minimize risks to ourselves and others changes by the hour, I understand the protocols of establishing and maintaining red and green zones in my home as well as minimizing the risks  to all concerned very well. I’d been practicing them in my Tokyo home for weeks. This dude probably leaves the seat up—but I digress.

If he were less steeped in ignorance and puffed up by his costume he should have operated under the assumption that his breath may well have contaminated the very paper he had just given me with COVID-19.  Frankly, we must assume everything we touch needs to be sanitized. But that’s not quite the level of consciousness we’re at. We’re getting there. The question is: Are we getting there fast enough?

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2 Responses to A Small Test of the Buddha Mind

  1. David Tickner says:

    11 April 20

    Hi Lynda

    I read your account of being in Japan and returning to Canada in the midst of the Covid closures, cancellations, and restrictions. I hope you are keeping well and enjoying this lovely Easter weekend… as much as possible under the circumstances!

    As I read your blog, it almost sounded like you were on a ‘reverse pilgrimage; that is, that you had been or had felt ‘at home’ in Japan and were now returning to an ‘unknown’ and ‘dangerous’ land.

    I was also intrigued by your account of your walk at Fushimi Inari and your reference to the tree. I quote from your blog:

    “with the mountain to myself I enjoyed a profound experience” “a lone tree, magnificent for its startling solitude in the evergreen forest still dark with the last days of winter” and “The lone tree is an early variety of the long-awaited sakura, delicate reminders of life’s transience and mono no aware.”

    So, what did this tree say to you? What made this experience ‘profound’? and memorable?

    I ask because such experiences were on my mind as I was writing my current book on the etymology of words related to religion and spirituality. A major theme of the book is that experience precedes words. Something happens to us and we respond. We name our experience and our responses. At times we have experiences that are ‘beyond words’ and so we search for poetic or metaphoric or imaginal or other creative ways in which to try and describe or represent such experiences. Much later come the more rational interpretations (e.g., the philosophies or theologies—Christian or Zen or otherwise). My book tries to explore the experiences which may have prompted the creation of such words.


    • Lynda Philippsen says:

      Thank you for your thoughtful response, David. I hadn’t considered the idea of a “reverse pilgrimage” and the concept is very helpful from my present perspective under Federal Quarantine Order which will be followed by self-isolation. (Get thee to a nunnery, eh?) I will take some time to consider that concept as well as your questions, and respond to those via email. I look forward to getting a copy of your book. I’ve been intrigued by it since you first mentioned it many years ago.

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