Thursday, April 06, 2006
I have created a new blog with some of the photos i have taken over the last 8 months. The link is to the right labled "New Photos." Enjoy!
Saturday, April 7, 2006, Buddha’s Birthday
This morning I woke up and discovered that it was warm enough to sit on my balcony and read with my shirt off. It was that warm. Kieran came over; we did fifty pushups, and then went down to the river to enjoy a picnic under the glorious cherry trees. The blossoms waft a smell of cherries, like cherry syrup, all throughout the river valley. We enjoyed some oranges and raisin nut bread. Afterwards I walked along the cherry trees, noticing all the families and neighborhood picnicking beneath them. And if you can imagine that the pedals fall constantly from the trees and are carried by a gentle breeze. The Blossoms last a week at most; a great teaching: Nothing lasts very long, not the good stuff, or the bad.
I came home, worked on some paintings, and then went to a dinner at my Shorinji kempo teacher’s house. When I arrived I found him waiting outside, a little old man with big glasses, all dressed up in the robes of a monk. Inside I saw these odd but cute dolls that decorated his house; his wife is a doll-making teacher. She gave me a yellow teddy bear. They also had a collection of figurines from all over the world. Can you see the king of pop?
This morning I went to the Zen Temple and saw a huge white elephant sculpture by the front doors, standing next to a tiny sculpture of the baby Buddha in a big bowl of tea. The Japanese tradition is to pour tea over the little Buddha, giving him kind of bath.
The white elephant refers to the dream that Maya, Buddha’s mother, had the night she became pregnant. This is fascinating because it is just like the Christian story. In the Christian version, Mary dreams of a white dove entering her. In the morning she wakes up and is pregnant. In Buddhism, Maya dreams of a white elephant entering her, wakes up pregnant. The White elephant is the symbol for peace in India (a big, powerful, vegetarian animal who harms nothing) and the dove is, of course, the symbol for peace in the western world.
Fascinating, yes? Both stories also involve prophecies that this child will be the “anointed one.”
The birth legend in Buddhism is wonderful: his mother was resting in a beautiful garden. She reached up and grabbed a branch, the tree suddenly burst into bloom, and her baby dove out of her side, ran to a little hill, smiled, pointed one hand to heaven and the other down to earth and yelled “I am the King who has come!”
Interestingly, alongside this great myth is another version far more realistic; he was born normally, his mother soon died, he was raised in a very wealthy palace isolated from everyone. He was miserable and dissatisfied and left the palace one night on a spiritual journey that, after many years, led him to a tree next to a river. He mediated for a week under the tree until early one morning, as he was staring into the vast, glowing sky slowly changing colors, he noticed the morning star Venus remaining as a tiny, unchanging light, and it was then that he discovered his enlightenment. He walked through the forest for two weeks, and then passed a man on the road who was struck by his extraordinary radiance and peaceful presence. The man stopped and asked,” My friend, what are you? Are you a celestial being or a god?""No," said the Buddha. "Well, then, are you some kind of magician or wizard?" Again the Buddha answered, “No”. “Well, my friend, then what are you?"
The Buddha replied, “I am awake.” (The word Buddha means "one who is awake.")
Buddha taught “the middle way” throughout India and Nepal for about 50 years and then died. His last words were something like "Behold, this is my last advice to you. All component things in the world are changeable. They are not lasting. Work hard to gain salvation. Do your best. "
Because the Buddha never preached about God, his philosophy was able to spread all over the world, mixing with the already established religions.
In my opinion the major point, or “good news,” that Buddha brought into this world was that each of us has "Buddha Nature": the very nature of our minds is open and awake and free, and we don't recognize this because we are so attached to or entangled in the various objects passing through that open, clear awareness. When we quiet the mind (by controlling our actions), we can discover that clear, spontaneous nature of mind, and awaken to who we really are, our true nature, which results in a profound sigh of relief called Nirvana.
This parallels almost exactly with the “Good News” that the Christ Jesus preached up and down the hills of Israel 500 years later.
I am of course talking about Christ's teachings on the Kingdom of Heaven and how to get there. He did not only talk about the Kingdom of Heaven as some place in another dimension we go after death. No, that was an old belief. He taught that in actuality, “the kingdom of God is within.” (Luke 17:20). The Kingdom of God or Heaven that Jesus preached about is a Kingdom that you and I can find only by going deep within ourselves. Jesus said “Turn away from your mistaken thinking, because the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand’” (Matt 4:17). “At hand” meaning right here, right now, so close, within your own grasp, Behold! Its here right front of your face, or, more accurately, right behind it!
And the goal of Christian spirituality, then, is just like the goal in Buddhism: for each of us to be able to personally see the Kingdom of heaven within. We are to go deep enough within our own beings to find out for ourselves if what Jesus and Buddha preached was true. Then, and only then, can we honestly say, “we have the mind of Christ.” (1 Cor. 2:26). Or we can literally experience “putting on the mind which was in Christ Jesus” (Phillip, 2:5). Isnt that the goal of Christian Spirtualty? To follow Jesus into that Kingdom or Christ Conciousness?
And here is where the experimentation comes in. Both teachers, Buddha and Jesus, point a way to the Kingdom of Heaven or Enlightenment: Look within and see what you find. This does not mean necessarily that Heaven or the Enlightened, Fulfilled Self is something you can find or see inside your body or your mind (whatever you can see is not the true Seer). But, by pointing in that direction, you begin to discover the depths an mysteries of your own mind and humanity; you begin to see where you are real and where you are not, and you begin to see how intimately connected you are to others, and to the entire universe "outside." From within you move beyond yourself, into an Awareness not confined to your own mind and body but instead existing in a dimension way beyond space and time. Just try the experiment if you don't believe me.
(Paintings by De Es Schwertberger)
So, after meditation I went to another hanami party in the mountains of Toyo, a neighboring city. I threw a football around with some buddies, which reminded me of the countless hours I spent practicing football in my old neighborhood with Matt Johnson. Some of the greatest times of my life were spent with that guy, great memories, a tidal wave of which filled my mind just from the action of throwing a football. It’s amazing how the simplest things can trigger powerful waves of nostalgia. Our minds are so amazing! And so are these friggn cherry blossoms.
Posted by David at 6:08 PM
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