The reason we celebrate this first Saturday in April is to thank our Buddhist tradition, and in particular, its founder Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, for bringing these teachings into our modern lives. A way of presenting Buddhism that is easy for us to access and practice, and can convert our entire lives into the path to enlightenment.
While sitting here this morning, I picked up my journal and it fell open to a page from last fall. As I read the words scrawled in ink, it occurred to me that it summarizes, in many ways, what to me is the greatest kindness of my teacher. And how he has brought Buddha’s teachings on emptiness, the ultimate nature of reality, into my life.
I wanted to share these notes with my fellow travelers this morning, those who are walking this same joyful path to wisdom and compassion. I haven't realized this great insight yet, so please excuse all the inaccuracies in the words as I try to touch its truth, but I wanted to nonetheless share this with my hands pulled together at my heart, with the deepest of thanks to my teacher, Geshe-la, for his extraordinary wisdom.
Sitting by the stream on Labor Day weekend. The water has stilled to a mossy green mirror. The crows caw in the forest to the right. That large segment of woods with its swath of trees cut away.
You came here this morning with your cup of milky tea because it had finally become silent, from the sawing and mowing and cutting. Perhaps because now it was becoming hot. That would explain the early morning rush; he was getting all the work in before the heat.
Of course, you couldn’t see that at the time. Your mind was so agitated by the sounds you named "noise". You were lodged in that painful timeline of self-cherishing; the one where you are the central point in the galaxy, and all directions and actions are known by their proximity to you.
The kind and right thing was to patiently wait.
To patiently wait for the sawing to cease. Even though it went against the impetus of your gut, that deep habit within. An ever-present, gravitational pull—to make your needs and wishes come first.
Yet the forest has no concept of Clare.
The forest doesn’t even exist outside of the universe projected by your mind, a consciousness skewed by a fundamental misapprehension. That ever-present fixing of inherent, concrete forms. And that somehow, at the center of it all, is a self worth freaking out about.
It occurs to you that this habit of self-exaggeration is like a generator of hurricanes. And the forest of our lives is perpetually under its siege. It emits this toxic movement, making everything uncomfortable.
But Buddha’s great kindness, and your own teacher—Geshe Kelsang Gyatso’s—immeasurable kindness, was to reach into your life with remarkable, penetrating wisdom. With medicinal instructions that reveal its entire, illusive architecture.
He stepped into your life with these designs. The ones effortlessly transplanted from Himalayan landscapes to the vertical skyscrapers of modern-day Hong Kong—and to cities throughout the world. Ancient designs and roadmaps that now appear in any language and upon any surface—from books to iPhones and MP3s. Aligned to fit our experience.
And within it all, every instruction, this one overriding intention: to describe to us the object we’ve spent endless time not seeing. The one truth that has eclipsed us all. The object we’ve been paradoxically spending every moment of our lives thinking about and protecting. Yet was never there to begin with.
The sounds finally came to a stop. You picked up your notebook and your tea. You slipped your feet into your weathered flip flops and stepped down the basement stairs, through the dim and dusty air, and out the door to radiant light.
How would it feel to come into complete alignment with reality? To feel that whole whirlpool, those hurricane-force winds finally come to an end? To identify and inhabit your actuality? Spaciousness. Pure peace. Tathagata. One gone beyond.
Photo credit: Tharpa Publications, 'The Wheel of Life'