a year’s lessons


I probably meditated less this year than any other since I began my practice. I still managed to eek out a fair bit of wisdom over the months, though.

The amount I’ve learned from Fina could possible exceed even the experience of a year-long temple stay, at least in the lessons of selflessness, self-control, and not having control!

Also, since I haven’t take as much time to sit, I’ve focussed a lot more on maintaining mindfulness, which has been the most difficult challenge for me.

Another great lesson I acquired from a few sources was the importance of remembering that the Buddha was human too. I’ve never had the slightest inclination to view the Buddha as God as he’s evolved for many over time (another topic, entirely), but I realized, as many others may have done the same, that I’d definitely turned my image of him into an archetype of a perfect being, which in the end isn’t much different that making him into a God. The reason I feel this was such an important realization is that is makes it so much easier to deal with my own mistakes, my own humanity, when I realize that even the Buddha made some mistakes, or had to figure things out as he went along, even with (or, especially with) influence from others. He still set the bar pretty high, which is a good thing; it’s inspired thousands, if not millions, to follow in his footsteps, and still guided millions more on their path to awakening by his example.

A couple of years ago, Marcus was the first person to expose me to the view. He read a passage from a book describing the Buddha’s later days, “…the Blessed One, on emerging from seclusion in the late afternoon, sat warming his back in the western sun.” He (Marcus) also discussed whether his advice on how to deal with Bhikkhu Channa was appropriate for a Buddha. I wasn’t ready to look at the Buddha this way, I still needed an archetype for myself, but I think Marcus was pointing at the beauty of the understanding that I’m now coming to.

More recently, I’ve also come across a few references from Barry stating that Buddha was indeed human, like the rest of us. He felt emotions, such as sorrow, and probably even had an off day here and there. Watching the PBS documentary of the Buddha’s life and seeing the part about how he felt sorrow when he learned of the devastation of his home and the death of many of his people. Somehow, I didn’t realize that he would have ever felt sorrow after his enlightenment.

Although there’s still a part of me that wants to keep up that perfect archetype of a human in my mind, it reminds me not to turn my back on being human. I had the misconception that I must be like a stone, not moving or feeling. Maybe some characteristics of a sitting stone would be helpful, but really, I couldn’t have been more wrong. I’m beginning to understand the depths to which one should feel, observe the feeling fully, and let it pass. By feeling and understanding my emotions, maybe I can, in turn, help others to understand their own.


6 responses »

  1. I completely understand the impulsive desire for “perfection” and, in those moments when I’m a bit more awake, can see this desire as a “turning away” from *what is.*

    The Soto Zen teacher, Lew Welch, recently described the Buddha as having attained a different way of experiencing the world, his life and his mind. It’s not that his mind was different, but that he experienced it differently. A subtle and interesting distinction…

  2. I am less in sitting meditation. I find the brush in calligraphy meditation allows me to connect the heart, the mind and the breath at one and in tune, and there, I find peace, a silence from the thoughts that bounce around in my head for just a minute or two but it feels like the truth, a slight glimmer of what I am seeking in those seconds added to one.

    …it is within the imperfection that you discover the perfection that has always been there.

    Thank you for your beautiful writings. It is wonderful to meet you.

    :bows towards you:

  3. Pingback: The Buddha in Old Age « With(out) Bounds

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