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The Empty Cemetery


Am Koe Beighley Su, Sunim

Yesterday, I took a long hike through the massive cemetery in Grand Haven, Michigan. The paths led me up and down hills, through wooded areas, and it weaved around thousands of tombstones, many dating back over a century ago. I used the walk as a meditative experience and as I entered the cemetery grounds, I was greeted by six deer, not more than twenty feet from me. I stopped, chatted with them for a few moments, wishing them well, and they snorted in return, moving slowly toward me. We walked together over the snow-covered ground for a few moments until they turned, and we went our separate ways. It was serenely quiet and peaceful.

Cemeteries are curious places for a Buddhist Monk. While I enjoyed the peace and reverence that pervaded the space, I chuckled to myself as I thought, "All that is truly necessary is one tombstone with the inscription, 'Here lies what always has been and always will be, ever present throughout beginningless and endless time and space, throughout all realms.' " While I do not disagree with any faith traditions, I was still puzzled by the need to thousands of marble monuments annotating names, dates, ages other than to provide those still in this realm a place to grieve and remember...until there is no one left to remember.

There is a vivid memory of the occasion of taking my Bodhisattva Vows during the never-ending pursuit of Buddhist learning:

Like the earth and the pervading elements

Enduring as the sky itself endures,

For boundless multitudes of living beings,

May I be their ground and sustenance.

Thus for every thing that lives,

As far as are the limits of the sky,

May I provide their livelihood and nourishment

Until they pass beyond the bonds of suffering.

Just as all buddhas of the past

Embraced the awakened attitude of mind,

And in the precepts of the bodhisattvas

Step by step abode and trained,

Just so, and for the benefit of beings,

I will also have this attitude of mind,

And in those precepts, step by step,

I will abide and train myself.

And, so, while I am here in this realm, the work to be done is endless kindness and compassion, working to relieve the suffering of ALL Beings, with no exceptions or preferences, by whatever skillful means are available to me.

As my walk through the cemetery continues, I pause to rest on a marker inscribed:

Marcus MacCleod

Beloved Son, Husband, and Father


I picked up the tipped over pot of artificial flowers, brushed the leaves from the marble base, and wished him well on his journey, peace on his journey, and sucess in whatever realm he may enter next on his journey. This is my never ending desire-that all sentient beings be freed from their suffering and well on their journey.

May YOU be well, be safe, have peace and success on your journey.

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