A buddhist nun in Japan, who by her strong character, farsightedness and sympathetic persuasion had a great influence in the community where she lived, was asked how she came to give her life to Buddhism.
She said that she had lost her parents when a small child, and had been brought up by her aunt, a nun in charge of a temple. The aunt was very busy with charitable work, and could not give the child as much time as she would have liked. She took the little girl into the temple and they stood before the Buddha image, seated with the hands joined in the position called Meditation on the Dharma-world. The right hand is laid on the left one, both index-fingers are bent, and the thumb of each hand joins the index finger to form a rough circle.
She presented the child to the Buddha and asked him to watch over her. When they were outside, the aunt said: ‘If you feel you have done something wrong, which would make the Buddha angry, at once try to do something good to show your repentance; run and help someone, or do a little bit of cleaning or tidying up. Then go and look at the Buddha. If he is angry with you, his fingers will make two sharp angles.
If he has forgiven you, they will be the two circles as they are now.’
This made a big impression. T can remember many times rushing to the temple and hastily sweeping the garden for a few minutes, and then creeping in, hardly daring to look at the Buddha’s fingers. I can’t tell you the relief when I saw they were circles, and I knew I was forgiven.’
At this point one of her listeners demurred, arguing :
T don’t approve of using this sort of superstitious falsehood to control the actions of children. They only react against it all when they find out they have been deceived. Didn’t you, yourself, have a reaction of anger and scepticism when you found out that the fingers of the Buddha never move at all?’
The nun replied: ‘Oh, it wasn’t a falsehood. My aunt would never have told a falsehood. When I found that the Buddha never does move his fingers, I realized that the Buddha always forgives. Even at the moment of weakness or sin, the Buddha forgives. He is never angry. And it made me feel that I didn’t want to cause the Buddha to forgive and forgive; I wanted to live so that he would not have to forgive. It was a great help in some crises of temptation and fear. That’s what my aunt wanted me to understand by the fingers.’
© Trevor Leggett – The Buddha’s Fingers