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Lions Roar : May 2015
shame surrounding it—not to mention conflicting feelings— people often grieve alone, which creates more suffering. A mizuko kuyo helps women understand they’re not alone. It has the potential to connect mourners to each other. “In our culture,” Bays says, “we look at life as beginning at a certain time. We may argue over the precise time—Is it at con- ception? Is it at quickening? Is it at birth?—but we have a time when we say, ‘This is when life begins.’ “Then we declare a time of death, when we believe life ends. That’s one lifetime. It’s discrete. In Japan the idea of life and death is not like that. It’s more like there’s a great ocean, which contains all life. Periodically, due to cause and effect, a wave emerges, which is an individual. You can interact with that person—touch them, love them, hate them. Eventually, due to cause and effect, the life energy of that individual disappears back into the ocean. But it doesn’t die in the sense of being gone forever.” As Bays sees it, “One of the powers of a Jizo ceremony is that people switch from grieving because they lost a child to wishing or praying that the energy, which touched their life briefly, will reemerge in a place where it’s fully supported and loved.” This, she continues, reflects the shift basic to all religious and spiritual traditions—the shift from self-concern to concern for others. It’s a loving-kindness practice, she asserts: “May this life go on and reemerge in a place where its full potential can be realized. May it be at ease, may it be happy, may it not suffer.” JIZO, ONE OF THE FOUR principal bodhisattvas of Mahayana Buddhism, is known by different names in different lands. Jizo is his Japanese name. In Korea, he’s Ji-jang Bosal; in Tibet he’s Sati- snin-po. It is thought that his precursor was Prithivi, a Hindu earth goddess, because he first emerged in India as Ksitigarbha, literally “Earth Womb Bodhisattva,” or “Bodhisattva of the Mys- teries of the Earth.” When Buddhism spread to China, he became Ti-tsang Pusa, the overlord of the lower regions of hell, and in Japan the belief developed that he regularly descends into hell to liberate the human beings who are suffering there. As protector of those in the spiritual realm, Jizo’s protection extends to travel- ers in the physical world. Jizo’s forms are almost limitless. In today’s Japan, says Bays, “There’s a Jizo for everything. Jizo is a guardian of firemen because they go into the hellish realms like he does. There’s also a Jizo for people who feel like they’re a lost cause. And then there’s a Jizo for headaches, one for low back pain, one for toothaches, one for deafness, one for blindness. There’s even a Jizo for averting dementia.” In short, Bays explains, “wherever people are suffering, they turn to Jizo for help.” When Bays originally brought the mizuko kuyo to Oregon, the first thing she had to do was get a Jizo statue, but she couldn’t find one at any of the local garden stores. “Well,” her Right: Bays made this memorial, which is in the Jizo garden at Great Vow Zen Monastery. It’s dedicated to children who’ve died in war. Bays making a Jizo statue. In Japan, people leave offerings of baby shoes, toys, or even juice boxes to Jizo statues in remembrance of dead children. Bays recalls one woman who left food that would have been age-appropriate for her child if she had lived. When her child would have been sixteen, the woman left a Big Mac. SHAMBHALA SUN MAY 2015 42