“Becoming buddha” means that if we make an effort to truly understand the structure and mechanism of our own minds along with its various psychological functions, and endeavor to nurture wholesome psychological functions while trying to subdue the afflictive mental factors, somewhere at the other end of this path, the buddha-state will manifest itself. The consummation of this buddha-state is precisely the meaning of “becoming buddha.” (Tagawa Shun'ei, 1957-present) *Venerable Tagawa Shun'ei is a Hosso (Yogacara) Buddhist monk & abbot of and author of 'Living Yogacara, a fine introduction to the Hosso School in Kofukuji Temple in Japan)
One day, a famous woman lecturer on Buddhist metaphysics came to see Ajahn
Chah. This woman gave periodic teachings in Bangkok on the abhidharma and
complex Buddhist psychology. In talking to Ajahn Chah, she detailed how
important it was for people to understand Buddhist psychology and how much
her students benefited from their study with her. She asked him whether he
agreed with the importance of such understanding. "Yes, very important," he agreed. Delighted, she further questioned whether he had his own students learn
abhidharma. "Oh, yes, of course." And where, she asked, did he recommend they start, which books and studies
were best? "Only here," he said, pointing to his heart, "only here."
Layman Pang asked Reverend Dayu, “In order to help others attain it,
Master Mazu dwelt in the fundamental reality. Did he pass this on to you or
Dayu said, “Since I have never spoken with him, how could I know anything about
his fundamental reality?”
The Layman said, “Then you have nothing to report about this experience?”
Dayu said, “I don’t have one word to give to the Layman on the subject.”
The Layman said, “If the teacher would be forsaking the heritage by giving me
one word about it, perhaps he can describe it to me in two or three words.”
Dayu said, “That it can’t be described is exactly what the fundamental reality
is all about.”
The Layman clapped his hands and left.
(Pang & Dayu were students of the great Zen master Mazu in ancient China.)
“Our body is
unstable, altering and changing constantly. Hair changes, nails change, teeth
change, skin changes—everything changes, completely. Our mind, too, is always
changing. It isn’t a self or anything substantial. It isn’t really “us” or
“them,” although it may think so. Maybe it will think about killing itself.
Maybe it will think of happiness or of suffering—all sorts of things! It’s
unstable. If we don’t have wisdom and we believe this mind of ours, it’ll lie
to us continually. And we will alternately suffer and be happy.
The mind is an uncertain thing. This body is uncertain. Together they are
impermanent. Together they are a source of suffering. Together they are devoid
of self. These, Buddha pointed out, are neither a being, nor a person, nor a
self, nor a soul, neither us nor them. They are merely elements: earth, water, fire,
and air. Just elements.
mind sees this, it will rid itself of the attachment that holds that I am
beautiful, I am good, I am evil, I am suffering, I have,
I this or I that. You will experience a state of unity, for
you’ll have seen that all of humankind is basically the same. There is no ‘I.’
There are only elements.”
Jizo statues in Japan are dressed by grieving parents
“Grief lasts as long as it lasts. There will always be a
hole in your heart that’s the shape of that life, which you knew however brief.
People sometimes try to have another child right away, but that hole will never
be filed in by anybody else. It will be with you your whole life, but it will
soften and get filed in over time. It gets filed with love and happy memories, and
with the prayer or hope that the life energy will go on—that it will reemerge
in a beneficial place.”
New Year is a time when we can reflect on the past twelve months, and make resolutions for the coming weeks. When we think back to the events of the previous year, it does us well to consider not only what happened to us, and what we did, but also how we thought, what our mind states were for the majority of the time. Were we skillful in the way we approached the world, or did greed, anger, and delusion color much of what we did? And, regarding our practice as Buddhists, did we keep the precepts well, did we meditate as often as we intended, and did we develop any wisdom? If we reflect wisely, we can see where our practice faltered, and therefore where we need to redouble our efforts over the next few months. And, here is where a New Year’s resolution can come in handy.
If our meditation practice has dropped off lately, we can make a commitment to a new discipline for the New Year, and if we’ve failed to live up to the way of life promoted in the Buddhist precepts, we can endeavor to fulfill them more readily in the near future. A simpler, but very effective, attitude to cultivate is openness. To be wide open for the world is a challenging but rewarding way to live this life, enabling us to let go of some of the egoistic elements that make us fall short of walking the Way with more purpose. Being open to the New Year and all that it will present to us seems both a wise & compassionate approach to things, and doesn’t involve much preparation or philosophical acumen. All we need is a bit of attention and simplicity.
All that we see, hear, taste, smell, touch, feel and think occurs in our awareness. This awareness isn’t me or you, it doesn’t have a name, and nor does it have an agenda to follow at the expense of others. It is the simple act of knowing in the present. And, if we associate with this knowing, rather than with the ego-personalities that we think we are, barriers start to fall. The barriers that separate me & you begin to crumble, and the barriers that separate this thought from that world start to dissolve also. The experience of duality is inherent in the notion of being a separate self, and to see that such a self is a delusion is to begin to let go of it. It isn’t always easy to do, and even less easy to sustain, but then the Buddhist teachings and practices exist to help in this process of letting go, so they can be employed in this task.
So, turn your attention around to that which is attentive: What does it look like? What does it sound like? Is it a thought or a feeling? The limits of the conditioned senses are where the unconditioned begins; a spacious awareness that contains all that is experienced. Simply by pointing a finger back at our ‘eyes’ right now, we can see this featureless knowing, and that because it is empty of self, it is full of the world instead. No separation, no conflict: Just Buddha gazing at his own countenance. Surely, this is a New Year’s resolution worthy of a bit of effort, the right effort, to give our traversing of the Middle Way a little push into the future. And, when we see that there’s no separation between you & me, him & her, us & them, this & that, then we may have the wisdom to recite with conviction:
"Not a single one of you people at this meeting is unenlightened. Right now, you're all sitting before me as Buddhas. Each of you received the Buddha-mind from your mothers when you were born, and nothing else. This inherited Buddha-mind is beyond any doubt unborn, with a marvelously bright illuminative wisdom. In the Unborn, all things are perfectly resolved. I can give you proof that they are. While you're facing me hearing me speaking like this, if a crow cawed or a sparrow chirped, or some other sound occurred somewhere behind you, you would have no difficulty knowing it was a crow or a sparrow, or whatever, even without giving a thought to listening to it, because you were listening by means of the Unborn."