The Buddha’s Smile

by James McBride

I recently clicked on the link to get to our WIMG blog, Expressions. The page opened to an image of the Buddha framed well in light and darkness that accentuated his elongated earlobes, a distinguishing iconographic feature reminding us that he was once a prince who wore heavy golden earrings. 

However it was the serene expression on his face that drew my attention, especially his smile. It reminded me of something, something I had heard or read some time ago in this dream of a life. Maybe it was in The Heart of Buddhist Meditation by Nyanaponika Thera. I’m not sure. 

It concerned the quality of attention and concentration that one should aim for when sitting in meditation – firm and steady, yet light and buoyant. At some later point, it occurred to me that this attitude and poise was what had been captured in the smile in some drawings and statuary of the Buddha. It was what drew me to some and not to others. 

I began to bring the Buddha’s smile to mind along with the words - firm and steady, yet light and buoyant - each time I settled in on my cushion. Eventually, as is the case with practice, the words shifted into the background and then eventually slipped away.