My Buddhist Bracelet

October 4, 2014 at 5:39 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 11 Comments
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A year or so ago I was walking across Bryant Park, just behind the New York Public Library, when a man I took to be a Buddhist monk walked up to me. He held out a bracelet made of dark brown round wooden beads; one bead, which was larger than the others, had two figures on it, apparently from some Asian language. The “monk” asked if I would like one. I took out a five dollar bill and offered it to him. He replied that the bracelet cost twenty dollars. I said I was sorry but I couldn’t pay twenty dollars and started to put the money back. He scowled at me, in a not very Buddhist way, but then took the five dollars and gave me the bracelet. I put it on.

I suppose I took the bracelet because I am somewhat attracted to Buddhism. I took a required course on Japanese Buddhism in graduate school and read some Dōgen, whose thinking I rather enjoyed. More recently though, since my husband and his mother were both so sick this summer,  I have been practicing Zen meditation. I decided I really needed to calm down. I even joined the Brooklyn Zen Center, in search of a community of support.

In sharing this with you, I do not mean to mean to suggest that I am some kind of spiritual adept. Except that it would demonstrate a distinctly unBuddhist kind of grandiosity to make such a claim, I’d be inclined to say that I am the worst meditator in the world. Often I seem capable of suspending the anxious planning my next activity (sometimes my next blog post) for no more than a few seconds at a time. And most days I can barely stay sitting for the fifteen minutes that I plugged into the  Zazen Lite app on my iPad.

Let me also be clear: I am not planning to transfer from Catholicism to Buddhism any time soon. As my American-Baptist-clergyman husband is given to saying, my Catholicism is genetic. Then too, some very distinguished Catholics have found Buddhism deeply meaningful. A copy of Thomas Merton’s Zen and the Birds of Appetite is on the book shelf next to my computer.

Despite its pitifulness, my meditation practice does seem to be helping me. As a result, I suspect, of saying “thinking” and bringing my attention back to the present the six or seven thousand times I do so in any given meditation session, I now sometimes find myself being able top stop my mind from racing on to the next task when I am not meditating. Maybe this grey haired lady will learn to be in the present before she is no longer in it at all.

A few months into my meditation practice, I heard on the radio that Asian men posing as Buddhist monks were conning people in New York by selling fake Buddhist bracelets to them. I suppose this news could have annoyed me. I was certainly glad I hadn’t given the guy the twenty dollars (though the odds on this child of Depression-survivor working class parents doing so were slim to none even if the “monk” had been authentic.)

I’ve decided, though, that something about the fraudulent Buddhist bracelet fits in perfectly with my attempts at meditation. I’m not awfully good at it, but I find it a comfort. My quasi-monk wasn’t very honest, but it’s rather a nice bracelet. I think I’ll put it on and go meditate.





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  1. Dear Marian and all,

    I bought the book “Peace Is Every Step” by Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh at Grailville’s book store, and it’s a treasure of mine. I’ve read many other writings by him. I sit in quiet, but cannot say that I’m truly meditate. The quietness is spirit-restoring, for me. For eleven years now, I’ve been a member of Yellow Springs Friends Meeting (Quaker) and sometimes we spend an entire hour in silent communal worship on Sunday mornings. It’s truly a time when the Meeting is what we called “gathered”. I can understand the healing that the practice gave to you, and I’m glad for it.

    In friendship, Ellen Duell



  2. Thanks, Marian– but why is the bracelet fraudulent; didn’t it pretty much accomplish what was intended?


    • I guess it depends on whose intentions we’re considering! But yes, it definitely accomplished mine.


  3. If you had given him a large bill and asked for change, he might have answered, “Change comes from within.”


  4. Oh Marion….once you reach that center point in meditation is becomes second nature to one…..A former New Yorker living in the North Carolina mountains….I knew about the ‘fake’ monks from an article in the NYTimes a long, long time ago…it was quite a story…..yours was good as well.


  5. Just my kind of blog. We are such imperfect humans, and yet we strive towards what matters most. . . . All of us.


    • Thank you, Rev. Snow Spalding.

      So how’s Berkeley?


  6. You make me laugh, so good! Thank you, take care, Margaret


  7. Hi Marian, I am doing some reading re Buddhism. the latest being THE HIDDEN LAMP Koans and reflections from Zen women priests, teachers and laywomen…Really very interesting. I want to know where all these Buddhist women have been hiding. So good to be in contact with you Marian…


  8. It happened to me today at Bryant Park my question is what does the bracelet signify when the man walked up to me I was talking about my recent deceased father and was saying that I felt that he was not at peace with himself and this gentleman walked up and said peace and put the bracelet on my arm ……. I actually felt like it was a sign please let me know your feelings on this


  9. Some times you might think this moment is far from being perfect, far from the perfect moment you envision you would most likely enjoy rather then the one your experiencing yet considering the moments that led up to this moment couldn’t have happened any other way, that is the perfection working in each of our lives. With an open mind and open eyes we see happiness in this moment. More bang for our buck is a side effect to this money ruled life of slavery.


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