So Distant Yet So Close

The only thing I know about my paternal great-grandmother, besides her name being Tang De-Fu (湯德富), is that she was the most accomplished practitioner in her Buddhist temple, so accomplished that she passed away sitting in a full-lotus position meditating.

Sometimes I wish I knew more about her. Come to think of it though, what else could be better telltale of a transcendent being, than that specific piece of information about her I already know? Utterly it has spoken it all, hasn’t it? If you could die like our great-grandma did, with that kind of composure, in so sublime a state, attaining such profound realization, what other particulars about you could possibly be further revealing?

I realize I don’t really need to know more about her – I have known everything about her that truly matters.

It would be nice though, if we had a picture of her. The point is not to know what she looked like. The point is to have a focus for gazing, to have an embodiment of the sublime qualities I know she must have acquired – confidence and compassion, forbearance and generosity, rejoice and delight, insight and wisdom, clarity and purity … I yearn for a connection with her. I need her to be less faraway.

So I made this drawing of my great-grandmother, based on my idea about her in my mind’s eye. I certainly lack the skills to convey all her spiritual qualities. But now that I can gaze upon her with all my admiration and appreciation, she is no longer distant in history; she is right here with us.


But then, in the past she’s never really faraway, I realize now. She’s been in my blood. This undercurrent of inherited essence has been there all the time. It is a built-in mechanism, our inborn nature. Thanks to great-grandma’s full-lotus posture, the inspiration it passed on remains fully alive. The seed will sprout one day. I know it has to.