Sunday, July 21, 2013

The dream of me and you.

The traveler has to knock at every alien door to come to his own, and one has to wander through all the outer worlds to reach the innermost shrine at the end.”[i]

Buddha is not a personal name. Instead it is a designation that means Awakened. Before awakening we all live in a deluded state of mind seeing ourselves in a very restricted way, separate and apart, not only from one another but from our source as well. We are imprisoned in a nightmare, thinking all the while that the dream is real. Only the nightmare doesn’t seem bad at times. So long as we possess what we desire, and believe in bright tomorrows, the dream seems acceptable and becomes normal.

But life has a way of disrupting our status quo of acceptable norms. One moment we are sailing along under an azure sky, the wind in our sails and warmed by the sun of happiness. In a heartbeat the sky darkens, clouds of despair cover the sun, darkness turns the seas into waves of chaos and our happiness is lost. Thus our normal becomes vacillations between highs and lows as what we desire comes and goes. This pattern repeats time and again and we react with the seemingly realistic expectation that this is life and it could be worse. The sun will come out tomorrow and behind every dark cloud there is a silver lining. After all, there are many in our world who have it much worse and if we are wise (so we reason) we will save during the good times for the bad times that will surely come. But life is tough and we find it difficult to store away needed reserves AND look to the needs of others. We have our hands full of taking care of ourselves and loved ones. There simply isn’t enough to do both and we rationalize that the lives of others would be better if only they would be more industrious. And without even noticing, justified greed and alienation set in and our heart becomes hard. Denial and defensiveness emerge, only to be followed by anger and hostility. There is me and mine versus others and theirs. This is our normal world, governed and dominated by an image we hold of extended family and ourselves.

For most, this is an acceptable norm, but for others the pattern leads to a quest to find a better way and this compels us to journey far and wide, to the bookstore and beyond. Perhaps we can read how others discovered the better way. Perhaps we can find that better way in exotic lands among the gurus who possess secrets. So we leave home and travel to wellsprings of expected wisdom.

I say all of this without judgment but rather with a deep sense of compassion. I’ve been to all of these places and gone through the same losing dreams, not knowing I was in a dream. I know of the frustration, the heartache, the disappointment and despair. I’ve tried, and failed, to hold the changing sea of happiness in my tight, possessive fist. So I know. That journey failed me and it will fail all who travel that pathway. And the reason why it fails is because the solutions are nowhere other than within our own hearts and minds. The solution is to awaken from that dream and discover the truth of our unity with others and our source. Wherever we go, there we are. It is as Tagore says, we go far and wide only to discover the answers within.

We are, as Hakuin Zenji[ii] said, like a child of a wealthy home wandering among the poor, or, as Jesus taught in his parable of the prodigal son, eating from the trough of pigs while a banquet awaits us,[iii]or worried for our survival even though God cares for the lilies of the field.[iv] The log in our eye that clouds our vision is our own dream of egotism. Remove the log and we’ll be able to see what is always present, has always been present, and will never stop being present. Then we will see suchness—things as they are. Then we will see that, in spite of the nightmare of poverty, there is abundance. It is everywhere evident, because everything conceivable resides within our own mind. There is no separation between the outside and the inside. The gate is wide open, and there is no gatekeeper other than the one we imagine within our dream of untruth.

[i] Rabindranath Tagore
[ii] From The Song of Zazen by Hakuin Zenji, one of the most influential figures in Japanese Zen Buddhism. Born in 1686 in the small village of Hara, at the foot of Mount Fuji.
[iii] Matthew 6:27-30
[iv] Matthew 7:25-27
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