Photo: View from the top of Stone Mountain by Benjamin Miller. Note the pot holes in the rock. When filled with rainwater, the larger ones are a good place to look for fairy shrimp.

Ven. Thubten Chonyi shares a personal experience of the Medicine Buddha Winter Retreat.

man kneels before nun offering a gift
my heart leapt
to recall the tiny fairy shrimp
that spring to life in the granite craters
and potholes of Stone Mountain.
They have buddha nature!
Just like me.

Not extinct (‘though some websites claim so),
crustaceans with no defenses whatsoever,
they dry up and go dormant as the summer heat
sucks up their habitat.
With a 44-day lifespan they have just enough time
to lay tiny eggs into the rock
before their world evaporates.

Next year,
or the next, or the next,
whenever the rains return,
fairy shrimp wake up, drink up,
reconstitute themselves,
and the life cycle of the rare inland fairy shrimp
begins anew.

The mother of the brood is long since reborn.
She has buddha nature.
Just like me.
May my practice
bring her awakening.

this tough old heart
is stony as the mountain
I so lovingly recalled.
Gnawing it like old leather—
beat up boots that hiked up
solid rock to search for vernal pools—
breaking off and spitting out
brittle bits of old resentments
hardened into shards.
A heart
overwhelmed with obscuration.
Beings are so many,
so troubled,
so contracted into self,
so ornery and bothersome . . .
Just like me.
They have buddha nature?
Just like me?

Self-centered thought
Comes bare in retreat.

Don’t give in. And don’t give up.
No scripture likens bodhicitta
To the lives of fairy shrimp,
Thriving for just a moment
Before shriveling up for a long dry time.

Thus, we do retreat.

One day follows another.
First meditation, second, third,
Fourth, fifth.
Did I mention tea?

Causal motivation:
Today, may my practice bring about
May I pursue every pathway
for the sake of all crustaceans
and shrieking hungry ghosts,
Forty-Five, Ghislaine Maxwell,
and my sweet and troubled mother,
who introduced me to fairy shrimp,
Wherever she may be.

“If a bucket can be filled by drops of water,
Why cannot the mind be liberated by
Progressive inner development.”


May all sentient beings
Be free of suffering and its causes.

OK. I will cause them to be free
one joyful, restless, focused, grisly,
drowsy, heartfelt meditation session
at a time.

Life after life.

Then, some life,
watered by countless drops,
fabricated ‘til genuine,
of love and great compassion,
bodhicitta will finally,

Sustained by long habit,
giving becomes spontaneous.
And then, I really will
Cause them to be free.
They have buddha nature.
Just like me.

VCN, Winter Retreat, Feb 2022