What I Heard The Buddha Say
By Eternity “Joraku” Wauls
During an intensive sesshin, I found myself sitting at the feet of a Buddha. The very wise Buddha recognized what I was truly asking through my rather immature question. What follows is a description of what I heard the Buddha say.
To be a Buddha indicates that you are willing to take on responsibility and you respond in an appropriate, timely, respectful and loving way to the needs of the people around you as well as your own needs. You cannot adequately address the needs of others without being a burden upon them if you have not addressed your own needs. A Buddha does not manifest as a burden but rather as a blessing, a benefit, an example. You must be intentionally clear within your own mind and beingness about who you are, what you are doing, who you are serving, and why.
To be a Buddha means you do not allow fear to control you, cloud your vision or short-circuit your responsibility. Fear is an illusion that leads to delusion which can cause contraction and failure to act responsibly. Eliminate from within yourself any thoughts or awareness that would serve to restrict you on the journey toward emptiness and freedom. Your journey is your journey and there are no comparisons. Trust your own Buddha-nature.
To be a Buddha means that you do whatever you can to embody, to live, and to radiate loving compassion or bodhichitta to all sentient and non-sentient beings. The three gems become your constant companions, and you don’t breathe without them. The Eight-Fold Path, the vows, the sutras and multitude of teachings become guidelines and road marks along the journey of life. Being a Buddha means you recognize and live in the harmony and oneness that exists between you and your environment which is vast and far-reaching. All of this will be challenging because unenlightened sentient beings think and believe that they cannot benefit from living in harmony and oneness with others in the environment. This is an age old challenge, or perhaps an opportunity. Address it in your own unique way.
Your thoughts, words and actions create a ripple effect or sound wave like a pebble tossed into a lake. You aren’t able to see these far-reaching effects, but you are aware of them and know they are far-reaching. Responsibility is a word that frightens many and causes some to run in the opposite direction, much like you have run in the opposite direction when you were afraid to take on a new responsibility. However, being responsible is paramount in the life of a Buddha. Be clear on the distinction between being responsible to someone and being responsible for someone or something. To be responsible means you can’t lay down the load at someone else’s feet and expect them to pick it up and run with it.
Since you, Joraku have come from a Christian background, you may recall the scripture in which Jesus the Christ, also a bodhisattva, says “Take up your cross and follow me” (Matt. 16:24-25). This can be interpreted and understood in a variety of ways. I do not understand it to mean that a Christian disciple is to lay down their load at Jesus’ feet so he can carry it for them. There are those who seem to have this misunderstanding. It’s almost like they are saying, “Give it to Jesus and he will do it.” Rather, my understanding is that the disciple is to take up their load/cross/responsibility, walk in his footsteps, and learn by imitating his attitude and behavior. Many today need to hear, understand and exemplify this teaching at deeper levels than has been done before. It is true that two carrying a load or cross is easier than one, like two mules yoked together to pull a heavy wagon. From our Buddhist perspective, the Mentor/Roshi and the student are yoked together in carrying the load that leads to enlightenment, Samadhi, emptiness and nirvana.
Then I recognized that at least for the time being, the Buddha was beginning to close the teaching. The Buddha began to say, “With these suggestions I have provided, you should have enough rations to begin your journey. When you find yourself running low on rations, I’ll be here to help you pick up your load and continue. Be willing to travel to unfamiliar fields and make a home in unfamiliar settings. By the way, don’t forget to be open and receptive to all who come before you because each one is a facet of the jewel in the lotus.”
Having heard the Buddha’s words of wisdom reminded me of a sangha brother who knows a little about my diverse background. He lovingly identified me as a spiritual butterfly. I hadn’t thought of this concept until he spoke it. After some consideration, I’ve decided that it is very appropriate and I like it.
What does a butterfly do? It flies from flower to flower and often from one field of flowers to another. During this process it is gathering sustenance and at the same time pollenates and serves the plants that nourish it. But before the butterfly becomes the beautiful creature that flies ever so lightly from flower to flower; it goes through certain developmental stages –a process of metamorphosis. If any of these stages is interrupted or abandoned before the appointed time, the butterfly does not emerge from its cocoon with the strong, healthy wings it needs to survive.
In order for this Buddha mind—mind of Christ –to thrive, I need a unique type of nourishment from various fields of flowers in order to move through all my stages of metamorphosis. If I do not receive the proper nourishment, I can’t take care of myself, or function in harmony with the environment of which I am a part. Also, I fail to become the Buddha capable of reaching to the height of her true responsibility (inter-dependent arising), and I cannot wear the robe of liberation or be an example before others.
Finally, I began to ask myself some questions:
1. Can I really become and be the jewel in the lotus that dwells in muddy water?
2. Can I walk in the formless field of emptiness and appreciate all the benefaction offered to me?
3. Dare I even try?
4. Dare I not try since everything has been prepared and provided?
5. Can I take up and wear the Tathagatha teaching?
I don’t know, but I do know the choice is mine. I acknowledge the responsibility upon my shoulders to embody and manifest oneness—to be a bridge that unites or connects. I seek unity and commonality, not division or discord. I have no problems with diversity and the fact that we are all created uniquely different, because therein is a great blessing and benefit. But we, the flowers, need to be open to that possibility. The blessing is like the lotus dwelling in muddy water or the exquisite rose between multiple thorns.
Our world is fraught with too much delusion about separation and exclusivity. It seems that those who hang on to the illusion of exclusivity do so merely because it feeds their ego and makes them feel superior. This in and of itself is an illusion. There is a false claim floating in the air that “we have and know the truth and you don’t—our truth is greater than your truth.” I believe we need to make the effort to find the common thread binding us together into one cloth so that we can safely walk together to the other side of the river and DISCOVER the new possibilities awaiting us. Greed, competition and deception serve no purpose in this process; they are outdated modalities. Come forth out of samsara and delusion.
As The Elders of Oraibi, Arizona Hopi Nation would say, “It is time to live The Dance and to Mend The Sacred Hoop.” For those who are ready, come to the healing circle.