“How does an enlightened one return to the ordinary world?”
-Unnamed monk to Kegon
There once lived a stout panda
who was painted in calligraphic strokes of black ink.
Who looked like a cloud with fur around itself
or a pillow turned inside out.
Who lived a devout zen lifestyle.
His name was Uudu.
Each day, he would wander the woods,
roaming the rows of bamboo
in search of fallen leaves.
On finding one—a papery bronze blade—
he would jump clumsily with joy,
for they were hard to see on the spongy soil.
Uudu would lick each unearthed leaf
and paste it carefully on a growing shoot.
He thought he was returning them home
and sometimes, when eating the woody stalks,
he forgot which leaves adventured in the undergrowth.
But did the leaves forget, and turn green again?
Uudu sits naked in the eucalyptus forest.
His bear back is barely shivering,
with black hairs raised to keep the quiver in.
He tries to meditate, saying
“Ohm” to himself over and over again.
He fails miserably.
Still no wise enlightenment because
bears are less likely monks than fireflies.
The sky is gray as a well worn kimono,
but pandas cannot look up.
The snow is all the inspiration he will find today.
Uudu’s tea is cold as solid butter and
snowflakes fall along the tip of his
yellowed wooden cup.
He has not taken a sip, since he has no
Uudu sits among his favorite branches.
Unbeknownst to him, beetles are
nibbling away the foundation of his tower.
Some time later that evening,
Uudu crashes to the ground
in a flurry of leaves and powder.
Finally, he snores.
And lastly, as an interesting side note, I was just reading about the world’s most expensive tea, which happens to be recycled from panda droppings. Turns out their digestive systems can’t extract about 2/3 of the nutrients in bamboo, so it’s antioxidants and whatnot are ours for the taking. That’s assuming you can pay for a cup, which doesn’t come cheap (about $200 a fix, the majority of which probably comes from the “organic” label. May as well stick with eating gold).