Yesterday I went to buy some items for my meditation altar. I’ve been a fan of the Buddha for several years now and along with my incense picked up a tiny little Buddha statue. The fat happy guy meditation that we have all seen, but as I was looking around the shop something drew me to the Jizo statue. At the time I thought it was just a different Buddha statue and it was the size I wanted and this beautiful stone texture and multi-colored. Just looking at it brought me peace. As the lady was checking me out, she said “Oh, I see you like Jizo.” I thought “Who?” Not willing to admit my ignorance, I stayed silent as she told me Jizo was a bodhisattva who is a favorite of children and travelers. “Oh well,” I thought “he still looks nice and brings me peace when I look at him”. So I bought him anyway, a little disappointed I didn’t have my Buddha.
The next day I posted a picture of my altar on Facebook. A friend wrote back, all excited. “Oh, I see you found Jizo! I love Jizo. When did you find him?” Well, I couldn’t fake it this time, I admitted I thought I was buying a Buddha. But, I reasoned, I still like him and he brings me peace. So, Jizo is OK.
Then another friend looked up Jizo and this is where the serendipity comes in.
Here is what she posted. I will highlight the relevant parts.
Jizo is the embodiment of the Bodhisattva Vow, the aspiration to save all beings from suffering. He is the protector of women, children, and travelers in the six realms of existence. In India he is known as Ksitigarbha, in China as Dizang, in Korea as Jijang Bosal, and in Japan as Jizo Bosatsu.
The function of this great Bodhisattva is to guide travelers in both the physical and spiritual realms. In Japan, Red-bibbed Jizo statues in Nikko it is customary to place statues of Jizo at the intersections of roads and paths so the correct way will be chosen. Jizo is often depicted as a child-monk, or as a pilgrim carrying a staff with six jingling rings to announce his friendly approach. He is sometimes shown holding the “Dharma Jewel,” the calming light which banishes all fear.
Jizo is special to pregnant women and to those whose children have died. Statues of Jizo can sometimes be seen wearing tiny children’s clothing or bibs. Grieving parents place toys and other offerings beside the Jizo statue to invoke his protection of their dead child. Offerings are also made by parents to thank Jizo for saving their children from a serious illness.
Chanting the mantra of Jizo and other rituals associated with this Bodhisattva are widely practiced in Asia. Jizo is now becoming better known in American Buddhism, and many Buddhist practitioners find Jizo practice helpful for remembering the Bodhisattva vow which guides our lives, as well as for healing our minds and hearts in times of grief and loss.
After reading this I went back and looked at the Jizo again. Then I finally realized he was a child. So, of all the statues, icons, etc. in that store, I was drawn to Jizo the protector of children, the one that grieving parents turn to, the protector of spiritual travelers. Coincidence? I think not. I’m trying to live my life more open to intuition. I saw the Jizo statue, was drawn to it and didn’t overthink it. I just bought it. Thanks.
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