Jesus has a beatific baby look or else a pained forsaken face on the cross, Yahweh has his stern, judgmental father scowl, Krishna his mischievous twinkle-in-the-eye look. But Buddha, that Buddha en-statued by my zazen pillow every morning, always has that serene gaze of equanimity, giving no hint of emotion. Just that complete and self-enclosed detachment, not a trace of euphoria nor sadness nor laughter nor tears.
What would I give to see Buddha at the San Francisco ballpark— or yet more intense, Yancey’s Saloon on 9th and Irving where I was, packed to the gills with spirited beer-drinking fans surrounded by 15 big-screen TV’s. How I would have liked to observe that face when Travis Ishikawa, a fourth-generation Japanese-American, hit the winning home run that put the Giants in the World Series. While the room erupted into ear-splitting whistles, cheers, cries of unbridled jubilation, while people high-fived and “Boom-ya!!’ed” and hugged and kissed and jumped for joy and raised the roof with their collective rapture, would Buddha have sat unmoved without a trace of a smile?
Of course, this question would only make sense if Buddha was a Giant’s fan or if he was proud of a Japanese-American player on the team (well, Buddha was Indian, but hung out a lot in Japan in future incarnations) and that brings up other sticky theological questions. Would the Buddha be a baseball fan or would he decline to choose sides since all of us equally have a Buddha nature? Surely he would admire the dedicated practice and the intense one-pointedness where bat, ball and player all become one at the crack of the bat. Surely he would appreciate the deep metaphor of beginning at home plate and having to work so hard to hit the ball so you can run around the bases to return back where you started. I think he would resonate with the option of getting on base without striving so hard to hit a single— just pay attention, be mindful and let the pitcher walk you. I think all in all, Buddha’s a ripe candidate for appreciating baseball as a spiritual practice.
But just once, I would have liked him to be sitting by me at Yancey’s and watched him jump up with uncontrollable glee and join the roar of the crowd before crossing his legs again and appearing undisturbed and detached. I believe it would make me yet a more devout Buddhist.