Does a Stone Have Buddha Nature?

My kids don’t often come with me to the Temple. Given its significance in my life, I often regret that the place and its people feel a bit foreign to them. Yet they looked comfortable as I watched them run ahead of me down the old brick path on the grounds early this afternoon. I would have expected an impulse to quiet or calm them, but it never arose. I caught up and we walked the twisting path together.

We were there so that I could install a piece of stone sculpture that I had done for an upcoming art exhibit. The rain was falling softly on a day that felt too chilly for late April, which made the early green of the spring seem even deeper and richer.

Working in stone is a new creative endeavor. For the last year, there have been piles of it lying across the ground in front of our barn as I have constructed a stone wall along one side of our property. As I shaped a few pieces for the wall with a chisel and point last summer, it occurred to me that perhaps I should shape a piece for something more than utility.

I began to carve a bowl out of a large piece of granite that had an almost glass-flat top. With everything I have felt the need to accomplish, there was really no cause for taking up a project with such a long timeline and that would result in, well, still having a rock sitting on the ground.

Often, as I coaxed out small pieces of stone, the bowl didn’t seem to get any bigger. Perhaps for a moment it would, as a chip or flake flew, but then the shallowness of the bowl would predominate in my attention. I worried that even if I were able to approximate the right shape, I wouldn’t know how to finish the job, know how to smooth the inside to match the image in my mind of how it should be.

Yet I kept working well into autumn. When winter approached and snow began to fall, I rigged up a small sled out of an old barrel cover in order to slide the stone into the barn; it is too heavy to simply lift and move. While I moved it because I had intentions of continuing to work the stone during winter, it sat in the barn mostly idle, between the chicken coop and the kids’ bikes stored for the winter.

I passed by it often and began to wonder if it would always sit there, unfinished.

The first time I tried to pull it out of the barn this spring, I used the same sled on which it had moved across ice and packed snow in the late fall. On the dry barn floor, though, there was too much friction, and the sled only tipped up as I pulled on the rope, sending me backwards to fall hard on a body that has been feeling suddenly older.

As I looked up from the floor, the stone simply sat – and I began to realize that that is what it does. It accepted my dissatisfaction and sat with me.

Days later, when I did manage to move it out of the barn into a pale but warming spring sun, it sat with me there, too, reflecting my growing acceptance that the bowl might never be exactly what I expected.

Sitting outdoors in a hard spring rain, the emerging bowl filled with water and overflowed. A small stick blown by a blustery wind came to rest in the bowl, and the stone didn’t question its arrival.

It listened as my daughter and talked about what I might do next to shape it, or how on earth I was planning to move it, and received them.

It sat still yesterday as I alternated sandpaper, water, and a blowtorch across its surface, and allowed me the space to work without knowing the effect of my efforts.

The stone became my teacher.

Its Buddha nature is clear and bright. For what else is our Buddha nature, but our receiving and reflecting of what the universe has to offer?

Right now, it sits at the edge of a path at the Temple, in the company of wet ground and early-spring growth. Drips from the trees above are falling into its bowl, and it is welcoming each of them. When the sun rises, it will receive that light and grow warm.

As we left the installation, I wondered aloud to my youngest as he shivered why he didn’t put up his hood. My children argued gently about who would have the chance to roll the dolly (which had carried the stone to its resting place) back up the brick path, and I introduced them all to a beloved sangha mate.

“You’ve got your whole crew here, huh?” he said, eyes bright and laughing as we hugged.

“I do,” I responded as my children and I walked back through the rain to head for home.

DSC_0070 - Version 2

Sitting and receiving on the Temple grounds

13 thoughts on “Does a Stone Have Buddha Nature?

  1. bluebrightly

    What wonderful, wise, but light-hearted words here. That’s what you do best, i think – observing and describing with great curiosity and insight, but never getting too heavy. The moment you fell and saw the bowl sitting with you was magic. And wow, that is one beautiful object, if I may say so! 🙂

  2. seeingm

    “You have traveled too fast over false ground;
    Now your soul has come to take you back.

    Take refuge in your senses, open up
    To all the small miracles you rushed through.

    Become inclined to watch the way of rain
    When it falls slow and free.

    Imitate the habit of twilight,
    Taking time to open the well of color
    That fostered the brightness of day.

    Draw alongside the silence of stone
    Until its calmness can claim you.”
    ― John O’Donohue

    I often carry a little stone in my pocket and I always have one in the coin section of my wallet as a little reminder of the incredible teachers this amazing part of our earth can be

    The conversation you have had with this stone is so beautiful and now the water takes over where the hand left off. Thanks for sharing.


    1. bussokuseki Post author

      Thank you so much for sharing that verse, it’s quite lovely. I, too, collect all sorts of rocks. There’s a bowl next to me now from a beach on the island where we spent our honeymoon…


  3. pi314chron

    Such a blessing to be chosen to release the smooth, cool bowl from within the granite where it has been from the beginning. The bowl became not what you wished it to be but what it has always been.

    1. bussokuseki Post author

      Indeed; it became what we are together. It’s been wonderful to spend time with. Thank you, as always, for taking the time to come here & read & share your thoughts. Be well~

  4. Chelsea

    I absolutely love this. I seem to come across your posts at the most appropriate time. Thank you for sharing your experience!
    Is your work published? I’m visualizing a bussokuseki night-stand read.
    Om shanti,

    1. bussokuseki Post author

      I am so happy to hear that, Chelsea, how wonderful. As far as being published, I have gone so far as to research how I would begin to approach it…but the project, too, lies idle. One day, I hope. Thank you so much for visiting and for sharing the space and your thoughts. Be well~

  5. Jeff Schwaner

    Wonderful process that stone went through, and you with it. Thanks for posting this. Wish I could get to Worcester while the exhibit is running. Hoping you post some images next month.


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