Remembering Who You Are
“How amazing. All living beings have the Buddha nature of awakening and freedom, yet they do not realize this. Unknowingly they wander on the ocean of suffering for lifetimes. It is time to realize your own Buddha nature.”
Our delusion can be dispelled in a moment. It is never too late for the illumination of wisdom. It does not matter how long the darkness has lasted. In one famous story, a spiritual wandered who had been searching all across India asked the Buddha to sum his teachings in the briefest possible way. The wanderer, named Bahia, was afraid that he had not much longer to live, and indeed he died shortly after the encounter. Hearing Bahia’s urgency, the Buddha pointed to the freedom beyond the self. “In the seen, there is just the seen; in the heard, there is just the hear in the sensed, there is just the sensed; in the thought, there is just the thought.” Understanding these words was enough to dispel Bahia’s delusion of a separate sense of self. As the illusion of self fell away, Bahia awakened to the suchness of life, immediate and open. He found the freedom he had been seeking was in his own wise heart.
Stepping out of the delusion of separation is a relief. Phillipa, a Buddhist hospice nurse, told me a story from the county hospital where she worked. A patient she was helping to care for had been brought to the hospital under guard from the local prison. Bill was forty-four years old, serving a long sentence for armed robbery, and dying from complication of HIV and hepatitis C. He had not wanted his mother to visit, because he was so ashamed of his life. But Phillipa saw beneath this shame. After a heartfelt conversation, she convinced him to make contact with his mother. Several days later his mother arrived, frail, over eighty, with a grief-stricken expression.
When Bill’s mother entered the room, she saw her son, who had not spoken to her for years, in prison garb, handcuffed to the bed. Phillipa was afraid that the dignified and stern mother would look at her son with judgment and disappointment. Instead, she just stood there with a deep stillness and they looked each other all over. Then their eyes locked and the circumstances and sufferings, the roles and costumes, all dropped away. Phillipa said that Bill’s mother gazed at her son like a newborn child, like a saint witnessing a miracle, with the heart of all mothers. Bill and his mother each saw their original goodness, forgiving, eternal. They sat together for an hour and held hands. There was not much that needed to be said. When his mother left, Bill said now he could die in peace.
When the delusion of separation is dispelled, we see beneath our roles and dramas to the level of spirit. We recognize the universal dance of life, where the roles and dramas, even the very players themselves, are tentative and dream-like, being nothing and everything.
This excerpt is taken from the book, “The Wise Heart: A Guide to the Universal Teachings of Buddhist Psychology.“