Kishitigarbha (Jizo)

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Exemplars of bodhisattva Jizo (continued)

Thomas Merton

Merton's monk is on the fringes, outside and irrelevant to the common stream of social goals and conventions, just as Jizo stays present in the rounds of the six destinies without being caught by any of them. Jizo Bodhisattva appears as a monk because, as Merton clarifies, a monk's job is to stand witness to all life and death from a place that transcends their boundaries. The ideal monk, like Jizo, crosses back and forth over the border between life and death, while remaining clear and observant of the fundamental meaning of whatever is experienced.

Monks are not better than ordinary people in the world. Monks do not possess an unusual "capacity to love others greatly." They understand that "our capacity for love is limited. And it has to be completed with the capacity to be loved, to accept love from others, to want to be loved by others, to admit our loneliness and to live with our loneliness because everybody is lonely." We might see in this humility the humble aspect of the monk Jizo, the Earth Womb Bodhisattva, who is down-to-earth, concerned with common people, and also greatly beloved.