It had been a long and rainy day on my self-guided tour of the shrines and temples of Kyoto. I had heard of Kiyomizu-dera and had saved it to last.
In Zuigudo, one of its “halls”, I descended a set of stairs that was to take me into the womb of the mother of the Buddha – Bosatsu (a female bodhisattva with the ability to grant a wish). It was dark like I’d never seen dark before.
My hand reached for the next round wooden ball on a long thread that was my only reference to navigate this dark underground maze. There were no walls visible or any other reference and the path had many twists and turns. The experience was set up several hundred years ago to help the monks at the temple learn non-attachment by letting go into the darkness – into the womb of the mother. It seemed to be working for me already. There was nothing to be attached to down here except that one ball in my left hand and my reach for the next. Nothing else mattered. And I was safe here in the “womb” so there was no fear to engage my mind.
One small step after another, one ball after another. I noticed myself relaxing more into the experience with each step. A sense of emptiness and openness seemed to grow with my progression. Just as I grew comfortable with the darkness, I noticed a dim light ahead. It was the light inside the Bosatsu stone – a large round type of transparent boulder. The monk at the top of the stairs had mentioned it. “When you get to stone, put hand on, and make one wish”. I had nodded in agreement. He had then slowly and emphatically had added, “Just ONE wish!”
Now facing the stone, I thought about my wish. Would I wish for a long life? No – that’s just an attachment. How about a healthy life? No, attachment again. What about a wish for my children? Still attachment. And so it went on. As I only had one wish, it seemed like it really should be one that mattered. So “what really matters?” I asked myself. I closed my eyes for a moment to return to darkness and felt my whole body and being. I placed a hand over my chest and asked again “What really matters?” Slowly one very clear word sprung forth… “Love”.
That was it. I placed my hand upon the stone and silently whispered “In my life I wish to give and receive love”.
I turned and ascended the stairs to my left and re-entered the world of light. Everything outside in the world seemed to appear a little more clear and bright to me. And I simply accepted that it was. A pervading feeling of equanimity in my body and mind. I felt light and free. I turned and bowed to the statue of Buddha acknowledging love, and then walked slowly down the hill toward the city of Kyoto spread before my gaze and bathed in the fading light of day. A day I will remember. What would you wish for?
Michael Lee is the founder of Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy. Over the past few years he has visited Japan several times to teach and mentor. You can check out Michael’s upcoming workshops and conference presentations and his life mentoring sessions here.