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Full-Up-Emptiness and the Wisdom Feast of Viriditas


This greening, living, spontaneous, laughing, surging, transforming energy caught Hildegard up in sacred dance, song, and spinning mandalas.

This is the rising sap that Robin Wall Kimmerer’s daughters drank directly from the spouts bored into Sugar Maple in early spring.

This joy is the laughter that can’t help but burst forth when the passport agent says, “Don’t smile for your photo.”


There is the straw-brittle,

bleeding sore,


wounding suffering of systemic racism, sexism, homophobia, COVID-19, politics, hunger, economic poverty, trauma, stress, and loneliness that dams this flow of life.

So, I walked with this blocked flow of viriditas, this stagnation and full-up-emptiness.

I circumambulated eight stupas,

eight marble and gold-leafed monuments to Buddha’s life and teaching,

eight containers of blessing filled to the brim with prayers and relics set in the landscape to bless the rivers, streams, and all sentient beings.

I tripped on the uneven gravel, sweated in the sun with my mask on,

Becoming aware of each breath, each step,

The way the sun moved overhead,

The squirrel eating acorns on a low branch,

The coolness of the shade and the breeze that ruffled the garland of prayer flags in the tree line.

And I walked with this full-up-emptiness past the offerings left on the stupa steps:

a ceramic laughing Buddha with children on his lap, to each side, and crawling over his shoulders, a lime green lighter, tiny gemstones laid out in a mandala,

a dollar bill here, a quarter there, a toppled spent chrysanthemum,

seven offering bowls of golden saffron water, twelve lit battery-operated tea-lights,

blooming yellow mums in blue pots.

I walked and prayed and breathed.

I became each step, each syllable of the mantra, each breath.

My fingers grasped the last bead on the mala and the practice concluded.

As I rested in the shade of a tree, a maroon-robed monk approached from the monastery gate.

“Hello, brother! How many did you do?

Thank you for your practice.

Here, drink this, but slowly.”

He poured cold coconut water into a glass and handed it to me.

And my full-up-emptiness received the fullness of his hospitality and care.

He disappeared into the shaded monastery gate inscribed with vining flowers and flaming wisdom jewels, reappearing with a shining metal bowl of oranges and nectarines.

“Here, these are really good.

Take two.”

And I ate this wisdom feast sheltered under the shade of a tree

as the mandalas of suffering and viriditas entwined for this moment.

And my joy was resuscitated,

laughter returned to my life.

It is said that when pregnant with the Buddha, Maya, his mother, was able to see her body as translucent and witness the blessing of her child within -her Buddha nature, the viriditas that is and overflows to all the worlds.

Like the eight stupas, may each of us be filled to the brim with the blessings of our teachers, our ancestors, and our own healing journeys to benefit all sentient beings. Like Maya, the Buddha’s mother, may we have the ability to see and engage the entwined spinning mandalas of suffering and viriditas, and the precious jewel of our own Buddha nature.


Justin Ferko is a 2021 Graduate of SDSG with Oasis and current Deepening Year student. Special thanks to the sangha of Karma Triyana Dharmachakra Tibetan Buddhist Monastery in Woodstock, New York, for this retreat experience and to author Wendy Garling of Stars at Dawn: Forgotten Stories of Women in the Buddha’s Life who shared Maya’s story. You can find him in his happy place outdoors at Wildwood Park in Harrisburg or on the meditation cushion with his dogs Benny and Yeshe stretched out nearby. He is a Spiritual Pathfinder offering sessions online to help spiritual seekers discover and nurture Inner Wisdom. Please email for a session:

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