It kindles itself, only for giving out its gentle fragrance, refreshing the surrounding space, cheering up the sense organ of nose, and comforting the uneasy mind – such is a stick of incense, standing straight up in the incense burner.
At its tip, a tiny little red light is seen, and the fragrant aroma floats in the air, creating a very pleasant visual impact….
With just a little piece, an incense of supreme grade can enlighten the atmosphere of an entire space. So delicate, between being and not being, it brings a feeling of cozy freshness.
In paying respect to the beloved Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, lighting up a stick of incense is the highest offering.
Silently, the incense spreads its essence, regardless how people might see it, standing fast to its duty — not giving more because of people’s love for it, nor withholding any because of people’s distaste.
In any space, as long as there is incense burning, all who enter will feel open and friendly. The sensation of the nose from being massaged by the fragrance, so soft and subtle — as if being present yet not, while not being there but it is – can calm down and comfort the restless mind.
People are fond of incense. Yet nowadays the sensibility of human nose is somewhat dull. So some people like rather strongly perfumed incense.
There is a variety of smells in incense, such as pungent, sour, bitter, sweet, and spicy. Some are stimulating to the nose; some bring saliva to the mouth; some can create long lasting aftertaste, and still some make people delight in subtlety….
When it is burned off, the light of incense is gone, but the fragrance still lingers, without immediate withdrawal. The lasting scent offers prolonged enjoyment.
Incense is quite welcome in any place, yet gentle and delicate incense disperses its fragrance in silence – it does not irritate the nose, pierce the ear, stab the eyes, burn the tongue, nor harm the body – everything and all is offered in silence, including receiving appreciation.
Chan practitioners also diffuse fragrance — the fragrance of Chan. Silently they give out a formless fragrance, comforting the heart, calming the mind. As it wafts through the air, it empowers peace of mind and joy of spirit with the dances of the five sense organs…
How wonderful the gracious and noble incense is!
(3/30/2005 Written at Ipoh, Malaysia. Chinese published in “Buddha Mind, Chan Affinity” by Dharma Drum Buddhist Foundation, Taiwan, 2014, English published in Chan Magazine, Autumn 2015.)