Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Who am I? Who are you?

Have you ever wondered what it must be like for a person living with Alzheimer’s? Such a person is lost in a never-ending dream with no idea who they are. They look in a mirror and see a stranger looking back at them. Apparently, some have the ability for momentary memory recall and then return to the enduring dream.

The Buddha said this is the way our life is. We are asleep, lost in an enduring dream and the challenge is to wake up and discover who we are truly. For most all of my life, going all the way back into my youth I was haunted by a question, which refused to go away: “Who am I?” I felt like I was trapped in a body and couldn’t touch the nature of my real self.

The question became a thorn of continuous pricking and wouldn’t leave me alone. Over and over it kept repeating until I thought I would go mad. And then one day it stopped all by itself and I knew the answer for myself, and in that instant, I knew the answer for everyone. We are buddhas. We’ve always been buddhas and will never stop being buddhas. And when I say that I don’t mean Gautama Buddha. I mean what the title “buddha” means: awake.

At that moment I woke up and remembered who I was. The Alzheimer fog went away and the question stopped haunting me. At that moment “I” disappeared and my true self (which was no self at all: just pure awareness appeared, but it was very confusing because the true me had no defining characteristics. At that moment I was nothing yet everything because a buddha is all that there is. I am buddha. You are buddha. Every sentient being is buddha, and the buddha is mind.

In Zen literature, the question is constantly asked: “Why did Bodhidharma come to China?” And of course, the answer, which he gave, is to show the world the answer to this question that nagged me. We are buddha and the buddha is our awakened mind. There is no buddha except mind; no mind but buddha. We are all united as one indivisible reality, which is mind. When we sleep we are trapped in the dream of samsara. When we wake up we are free and find ourselves in Nirvana. We are different yet the same: sleeping and awake, always and forever. 
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