A sangha member who has been collecting Buddhist figures for some time invited me to pick one from his collection as an ordination gift. These are beautiful figures, many of them quite striking, some of them quite moving. My eye fell early on a Chinese painted wooden Samantabhadra. The colors were muted, at first unnoticeable really until one got closer and picked up on the greens, the reds. The elephant was carved as if it were rounding a bend, so that the figure could be viewed head on or from the one side, and the bodhisattva would still appear to be facing the viewer. On the whole it had an air of weightiness to it, evocative of the hard work of bringing insight compassionately to bear in everyday life. I had considered taking the name, Bhadra, as my ordained name, so this was a particularly meaningful figure to me.
We looked around his many figures, and I came back to the Samantabhadra. "I'd be really pleased to have that one," I said. He replied, "It is paired with the Manjushri on the shelf with it. You should take both." I could see his point; these should not be separated. So both I took.
Filled with gratitude, I took the figures home. I showed them to my kids, and they were taken with them, too. Now came the hard part -- where to put them?
I've tried several locations now, sometimes setting both figures out, sometimes setting out the Samantabhadra alone. Wherever I put them, they look out of place. Too big, too low, too cluttered. They're beautiful figures alright. But do I have room for them?