Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Where’s Waldo—Finding Buddha

Some years ago my daughter and I loved to look at one of her favorite books together: Where’s Waldo. For those of you who don’t know, the Where’s Waldo series are books showing page after page of illustrations of thousands of little people engaged in various activities and within this mass, there is only one little Waldo. The trick is to pick out Waldo from the masses. My daughter loved this game and would squeal with glee when she found Waldo. The most difficult picture (and thus the greatest challenge) was when Waldo stood in plain sight. Everyone expects Waldo to be hiding behind a fence post, a tree or a hundred of other people, so to discover him in plain sight proves to be the most difficult.

Have you ever wondered what buddha would look like if he appeared today among the masses? Would he be wearing a long, flowing robe, have droopy ear-lobes with an URNA in the middle of his forehead? If so it wouldn’t be too challenging to pick him out. However, expecting a buddha to appear in physical form would reveal ignorance since “buddha” is not a name like Donald but instead a symbol meaning to “to awaken” in the same way that “Christ” is not the last name of Jesus.

Some years ago, during a sesshin, I saw buddha so I know what he looks like. Oh, I know. You’re now thinking, “Did he really see buddha? Was it a phantasm?” Or perhaps you’re just thinking, “this guy is really nuts.” Nevertheless, I did see buddha. As I looked around the room at all those participating in the sesshin I saw buddha in each and every person, completely unaware that they were buddha. I looked out at the gorgeous autumn foliage and saw buddha. I looked up and saw buddha on the wings of geese flying south. Everywhere I looked I saw buddha just like Waldo in plain sight.

There are three problems here. The first is delusions which cloud our minds and obscure our sight. Another problem is that we expect buddha to appear in a specific and limited form. And yet a third is that we don’t take seriously what the dharma tells us—That the nature of buddha is ubiquitous, unbroken and infinite, awaiting release as a submarine emerges from the depths into plain sight. We hear that teaching and think to ourselves, “That irascible blob next to me can’t be a buddha. Just look how poorly he behaves. Buddha would never act like that.” Well if buddha was as bound up in delusions and expectations as we are then perhaps he would act poorly. But such is not the case because the emergence of our awakened buddha transforms everything.

I was sad when I saw buddha in those next to me because they didn’t know and unless they awaken, what good is that enormous, untapped potential? Our broken and disfigured world desperately needs more awakened buddhas. Each of us alone is just a single Waldo hiding among the masses, but if all of those non-Waldos suddenly turned into Waldo it would be amazing.

Some years ago I participated in a global effort to map a particular strand of DNA (as a part of the human genome project). My participation occurred through what is known as meta-computing. The idea is ingenious. Some smart person figured out that millions of computers around the world sit idle with unused processing time and if all of those computers could be networked using the Internet it would expand logarithmically the number-crunching capacity. Even a single supercomputer can’t match the combined processing capacity of millions networked together. But this utilization only works when a significant number of people with computers choose to participate.

The same is true with all of us. When everyone is asleep and looking for buddha somewhere else, no participation happens. It is really time for everyone in the human race to wake up, stop looking for buddha behind a fence post or a tree and start contributing to the global network. When we look in the wrong places buddha will never be found and the world will continue to suffer. Seeing the unseen is often a matter of observing what is right in front of our faces.

“Merge together with all things. Everywhere is just right. Accordingly, we are told that from ancient to modern times all dharmas are not concealed, always apparent and exposed.”

Simply Drop Off Everything—Zen Teachings of Hongzhi Zhengjue
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