A Buddha’s Birthday Poem

We Choose Bongjeongsa

Pink, blue, green, red lanterns

hang from wires running along rivers, back alleys,

sidewalks, paths, bridges all around Korea today.

Buses bulge with students, farmers, taxi

drivers, nurses, grandmothers and fathers

and head out of every town to Dongwasa,

or Heinsa or Bulgoksa or Busuksa,

Yongmunsa, Musangsa or Hwagaesa

up into the green buddhist temples

to celebrate Buddha’s Birthday.

Bring fruit and give it to a monk or

someone in the kitchen, stand in line

and you’ll be fed lunch in a bowl.

Enjoy the chanting, the clicking stick

keeping time on the wooden frog,

the oldest building in Korea,

have a seat on the balcony,

make a lotus flower with glue

and colored paper and wire. It’s

the perfect place to hear the story

of the ashram your companion

stayed at in India or discuss

philosophy, free will,

choosing to suffer — or not —

better yet, soak

in the simple and rich

as its own reward.

Keeping the temple alive

generosity floats down the hill,

along the road, between the rocks,

within the stream, swirls around

the feet of children as they

gaze at a sky full of pink, green,

blue, white,  orange

lanterns hung by the hundreds

in rows outside the main

chanting hall.


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