Awakening the Buddha of Wisdom in Difficulties
“Who is your enemy? Mind is your enemy.
Who is your friend? Mind is your friend.”
I have on my refrigerator a picture of a solitary Chinese man returning from shopping with grocery bags in both hands, standing in front of a row of military tanks in Tianamen Square, unwilling to let them pass. We admire those who remain cool-headed in difficulties, those who carry the lamp of wisdom beautifully in the world, and we are sometimes deeply moved by images of nobility and courage like his. But that spirit is not only in him; it is in us too. Although we sometimes lose touch with it, we each have deep within us a lamp of wisdom, and a powerful spirit of compassion and conscience and understanding that we can draw upon.
To find this lamp, we must listen in a new way. Some years ago, one of the greatest primate biologists, George Schaller, came back from studying gorillas in Africa. Schaller was the mentor for Dian Fossey, who was portrayed by Sigourney Weaver in the movie Gorillas in the Mist. When Schaller returned from his field studies in Africa, he made a presentation to an important biological conference and talked about the familial patterns of the great apes. He spoke of the relationships between the young gorillas and their uncles and aunts, what the sibling relationships were, and the role of the silverback male—all with rich detail and understanding that had never been known before. One of the professors at the conference asked, “Dr. Schaller, we biologists have been studying these creatures for several centuries and we did not know any of this. How did you get such detailed information?” And Professor Schaller answered, “It’s simple. I didn’t carry a gun.” Previous generations of biologists had gone into the mountains where the gorillas lived with large elephant guns, because they were frightened of the huge and powerful gorillas. While the gorillas may not have known what these guns were, they were certainly aware that these interlopers were scared and probably dangerous. But Schaller, wanting a genuine relationship to the gorillas, entered their jungle without any guns. Because he was unarmed in a dangerous and foreign landscape, he moved slowly and deliberately, and the gorillas could sense the care and responsiveness and openness and awareness in his relationship to them. And, after a time, because he posed no threat to them, they allowed him to sit in their midst and watch all of the activities of their family and tribe.
The following practice will help you to learn how to bring this same caring attention and awareness to the difficult situations in which you find yourself, and to your relationships with others. If you learn how to listen for and hear this illuminating consciousness underneath our struggles, the way through your difficulties will become illuminated.
This practice is quite simple, but because this will be a visualization practice, some instructions about the visualization process itself are necessary. You won’t be asked to visualize anything fancy in this exercise. A visualization practice simply asks you “to see with the mind’s eye.” We use this skill every day. When someone asks you what you did on your last birthday, you will probably remember quite a bit without having to work very hard; images will come naturally and easily to your mind’s eye. You might see what you had to eat, where you were, who was with you, what gifts you received.
Visualization practice is the same. All you need to do is to become aware of whatever comes easily and naturally to your mind’s eye. The images may come to you as pictures, or they may be more of an intuitive knowing or you may become aware of them as sensations in your body, or perhaps as feelings centered in the area of your heart. If you remain open to the experience, you will find your own way to use these practices to connect to the lamp of wisdom you and everyone carries deep inside of us.
This excerpt is taken from the book, “A Lamp in the Darkness: Illuminating the Path Through Difficult Times“