The Living Buddha
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Did you have a good New Year’s celebration? Another year disappears from the time given to us. A day goes by, a month, a year, and in the end, what are we left to meet? With nothing to do, buried in our daily life, if we let time pass away bit by bit, one day it becomes such that we are left with nothing but a meager skewer.
This New Year’s Day I wonder if you’ve made a wish.
Last year, because your son was a senior in high school, even though you spent each day with anxiety and a nervous heart, now that you have cast off that burden your heart is totally opened up and in this new year you can focus only on making a new wish.
Wishes are life’s guide and driving force. When you have a wish, even if you encounter some difficulties, you will be able to muster the power to be able to completely overcome them. If you don’t have a wish, as the wind blows and the waves rise and fall, you’ll lose your focused mind and find yourself adrift in the current.
Even if you can only start today, make one wish. If you are hazy about what kind of wish to make, shall I give you a hint? Try making a big wish, to become a "living Buddha." Don’t think of "Buddha" only as this colossal, magnificent being. The thing called Buddha is but the mind of compassion. These words aren’t mine; this comes from the Buddha’s own mouth in many of the scriptures. In the Sutra on the Meditation of the Buddha of Immeasurable Life, it is recorded that what is called “Buddha mind” is the great mind of compassion.
That which is called “great mercy” is the giving of joy to all sentient beings; that which is called “great compassion” is taking on the suffering of all sentient beings. The meaning of the sad character "bi" is "groan." While my neighborhood suffers our afflictions together, this is the meaning of "bi." Isn’t this the mind of the mother dedicated to her child?
From the circumstances of those of us who can’t be in the position of a mother, even though we can’t help but be abstractly related, even if by merely watching from the side, we know that the complete and ardent sacrificial consciousness of the mother for her children is truly a sacred love. We can’t expect that sacrificial love coming from a father. For this reason, all of the world’s mothers are the root and nest of all life. Accordingly, we must bear in mind the truth that flowers and fruit can only properly ripen on branches that come from solid roots.
How do mothers come to create this type of sacred love? It goes without saying that the person is first a woman and and then through the birth of children, they are formed into a mother. This Buddhist teaching is mentioned in the Flower Adornment Sutra.
"The boddhisattva’s compassion is cultivated as a result of sentient beings, due to that compassion, the blooming of the aspiration for Buddhahood comes about, and as a result of this desire for Buddhahood, awakening is attained."
Here, if we exchange mother for bodhisattva and children for sentient beings, we can more clearly understand the interdependent relationship between mothers and children.
There is also another phrase.
"Through the water of compassion, if sentient beings benefit, the flower and fruit of wisdom flower and fruit ripens."
Therefore, there is the logic that if there are no sentient beings, bodhisattvas cannot attain awakening. To say it another way, this is the teaching that without children, the incarnation of a mother’s love can never come to be.
Often, because of children’s complaints and problems, people will say that "life with no children is the best life" or "children are enemies." But after having children, being put in the role of caregiver brings about the formation of the loving mother.
Between parents and children and between spouses, all human relationships are the conditions and subject matter of the life given to each of us. Therefore, we can’t help but receive them solemnly. Complex and subtle human relations are the reply to my summons. Therefore, I can’t face them carelessly. Becoming a living Buddha, won’t your family be more pure and won’t flowers fragrantly bloom?
This story comes to mind.
In one province, there lived a widow and her young son who took care of her. One day, upon seeing a mendicant on his begging rounds, this youngster, in awe at the pure and noble appearance of monk, quietly stared at the disappearing image of the monk fading into the distance, the impression written indelibly in his mind. From that day on, he became engrossed in wondering whether he could ever have the opportunity to meet a living Buddha. After a few months had passed, having happened to have again met the same monk, the youngster poured out his inner mind with utter delight.
"Venerable Monk! I wonder if you are going somewhere where you will be able to meet a living Buddha?"
With a beaming smile, the monk replied to the youngster’s blunt question, "Deeply bear in mind my instruction. If you meet someone who wears their jacket inside out and their shoes backwards, you know for sure that this person is definitely a living Buddha!"
The naive youngster trusted the instruction of the monk just as it was given, took leave of his mother, and from that day forward went out in search of meeting a living Buddha.
First of all, looking for a deep mountain temple with spiritually cultivating monks, peeking here and there, though he looked for a monk wearing a backwards coat and shoes, he couldn’t find one at any of the temples. After hearing from some person that the living Buddha isn’t in the deep mountains but buried within the mix of common people in the city, he wandered around the complex streets and market place, searching. Even though he chanced upon someone wearing tattered rags of a backwards jacket, in the end, he couldn’t meet anyone who also was wearing their shoes backwards.
Eventually, it occurred to the youngster that perhaps the monk had mis-instructed him. Even though he searched for a full three years, crisscrossing mountains and rivers as if weaving the earth, such a monk had never caught his eye. Now weary, no longer able to carry on, he had to return to the home where his mother was in his hometown. Since it had been three years since he had returned to the front of his dear house, his throat choked up with emotion.
"Mother!" he cried out with a loud voice.
Wondering whether his son would ever come home, his mother had waited every day for her son’s return to no avail. The long-waiting mother, who wished only for the day of her son’s peaceful return, upon hearing the voice of her son from outside her door, was so happy to see him that in her confusion she came out of the house after quickly throwing on her jacket inside out and slipping backwards into the shoes left on her stoop.
"Good lord! My little baby!"
The moment the child saw his mother he said, "Oh my heavens! The living Buddha lives in our house" and threw himself into his mother’s embrace.
The 15th century Indian poet Kabir composed the following poem.
When I see that the fish, surrounded by water, is thirsty it makes me laugh.
The thing called Buddha is inside your house
But you appear as if you didn’t even know
Wandering from this forest to that forest without a moment of rest
See the Buddha that is right here, right now
If there is a place you seek, go there wherever it is
From this city to that deep mountain
But if you are still not able to find your soul
The world remains as it was before, an illusion