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One City

Buddha of the Week

by Ellen Scordato

On a recent visit to San Francisco, I visited the Japanese Tea Garden and ran into this wonderful bronze buddha statue.
japanese tea garden buddha 1.JPG

photo courtesy mark rifkin/

There really was something that struck me about this statue at that moment. It was my first visit to SF, and I’d spent a pretty magical day w/my husband in the very great Golden Gate Park, which reminded me of Central Park,
NYC, only with a Pacific Ocean beach at one end and some bison in the
middle. And the Japanese Tea Garden. Right at that moment I felt a great sense of peace. Momentary, of course, and entirely dependent on impermanent causes and conditions.


The garden has a history; it was built for a big exposition (like a world’s fair) in 1894. Signage in the garden stated (and the website repeats), “Makoto Hagiwara designed the bulk of the garden and was officially
appointed caretaker in 1894 until the hysteria surrounding World War

The “hysteria surrounding World War II” refers to the internment of Japanese Americans, including the Hagiwara family, in concentration camps in the American West. As the website goes on to say, “In the years to follow, many Hagiwara family treasures were liquidated from the gardens, but new additions were also made.”

info buddha.JPG
photo courtesy mark rifkin/


This buddha was one of them.

Evidently, after Japan was defeated by the atomic bomb in World War II, a large American department store company bought this statue and donated it to the garden, whose longtime devoted caretakers, the Hagiwaras, had been sent to concentration camps by US authorities. Makoto Hagiwara, founder of the clan in America, is often credited as the inventor/introducer of the fortune cookie. What a lot of history.

Seeing the statue here and reading the plaque reminded me of how yes, we are in the present. It is always and only now, but the causes and conditions of this present moment are myriad and mysterious, resistant to our “make it make sense!” narratives and predictions.

But still, worth looking at. Causes, conditions, bison, and bronzes alike.

Comments read comments(6)
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Erin Loury

posted December 8, 2009 at 1:53 pm

When I saw “San Francisco” in the first line, I knew exactly which Buddha you were talking about! I visited the garden and this statue last year and loved how peaceful it was. A great place to see in the Bay Area!

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Your Name

posted December 8, 2009 at 2:57 pm

Beautiful. My parents, their siblings and my grandparents, like the Hagiwaras, were interned during World War II. I’d like to make a correction–they were in INTERNMENT camps, NOT concentration camps. Concentration camps are what the Nazis had in Europe.

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Anan E. Maus

posted December 8, 2009 at 9:05 pm

when one sees a statue like this and starts to be moved or feel peace, don’t assume that merely some “psychological” dynamic is going on.
that interaction, between the statue and your consciousness can become a meditative interaction…in a spiritual plane. And something much deeper than ordinary human consciousness can indeed be occurring.
Throwing that out is indeed throwing out the baby with the bathwater.
Take that moment, and, if you can, go into meditation, right there…allow whatever is “coming down” to be fully received. That is spiritual light, coming to the fore, the entire purpose of meditation.
Meditation is much, much more than merely some kind of “be here now” awareness. There are many inner states of consciousness and “aware presence” is only one. It can be part of a process that leads to a very high and pure consciousness, but it, itself is not yet that consciousness. Whereas the play of peace emanating from a holy statue…is indeed an tiny step into that realm.
Stay in the moment, yes…but don’t reject the spiritual gifts that come to your consciousness. They are part of the path and have deep and important purpose. We “stay in the moment” so that these subtle spiritual states can break through into our ordinary human consciousness…they are the purpose. The “awareness meditation” is just the means to that end, not the end itself.

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r4i software

posted December 9, 2009 at 5:19 am

i am new to tis world and have a very good faith in Buddha. I was searching for some new information regarding them, got to know new things here. thanks,..

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posted December 10, 2009 at 4:04 pm

A beautiful statue, a beautiful moment, both to be appreciated.

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posted May 1, 2010 at 9:13 am

I know the right hand mudra of this statue of Buddha(Abhaya Mudra) but not the left hand one (the hand which rests on the lap) : could you help me to find the name of this mudra ?
Thanks a lot for your help,

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