This is my photo poem in response to a prompt at TOPs.
Asakusa Kannon (Senso-Ji) Temple, Asakura, Tokyo, Japan, March 2009. (photo Carole Alexander)
Water children (Mizuko)
Draped in capes and hats of vivid red,
these broken links in the chain of life
gather in temple courtyards:
public incarnations of private grief;
once shared now often secret and alone.
Welcome visitants or intruders,
souls seeking vengeance for a life unlived?
Wil offerings to Buddha – food, flowers, light and incense –
nourish both them and those they leave behind?
水子供養 Mizuko kuyō – memorial service for the spirits of aborted and stillborn foetuses, usually performed by a Buddhist priest, once, monthly or annually on the anniversary of death as consolation to the mother and other family members.
An early Buddhist story
Kisa Gotami, unable to reconcile herself to his death, refused to bury her only child. Her neighbours, alarmed, urged her to visit Buddha who told her to go to each house in her village. From any family not visited by death, she was to request a grain of mustard seed. At the end of the day she returned home with no mustard seeds. She realised that suffering is universal and was able to confront mortality itself: she buried her son. Although she continued to mourn, she was no longer attached to grief. As she emerged from mourning so did her capacity for compassion.
A Christian parable
Jesus said: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches.’ (Matthew 13: 31-32)