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Sunday, June 05, 2005

A Story of Bodhisattvas

Autumn to late summer of 2000 through 2001, I worked as a homeless shelter intern. It was an intense experience, often ugly, sometimes beautiful. Here's one of the beautiful pieces.

It's natural to befriend some of the homeless people who bunk down a while in the dorms. John S. was a kind man. He studied Buddhism and Christianity deeply, and saw it as his duty to walk the earth and teach others about both. He wasn't a crazed proselytizer; he spoke gently.

One day I was sitting in the front office "Indian style" on a chair. Then I released my right leg and let it dangle off the chair in front of me, keeping my left leg tucked beneath myself. John entered the room and noticed that I was sitting in the position of the bodhisattvas.

The evening before I was to leave the shelter, and that piece of the U.S., many of the shelter guests wished me well. John gave me a special blessing. He caught up with me sitting on the bench outside the shelter and told me he was sure he would die soon. He wanted to transmit to me the Buddhist knowledge that was passed to him. He gave me a picture of Green Tara, a great bodhisattva, and his copy of the Guide to Dakini Land. He taught me to chant to Tara every day and to visualize her in meditation, then to visualize myself as her. He said that then I would be elevated to a higher plane in the next incarnation. He'd been practicing himself, for years, and hoped it would be true.

He wished that he could drag me before his master to meet him, but it was too late, and so we agreed we would try to do that next lifetime around. I'd been looking rather abashedly at the ground throughout this, but then John asked me to look at him. I looked him straight in the eyes. Making a whooshing sound with his breath, he placed his hand on my forehead, and I felt--I swear I felt--a tremendous surge of chi enter through my third eye and spread everywhere.

Then my fellow interns started coming downstairs to take me out for a celebration. I hugged John goodbye.

I tried meditating on Tara, and chanting to her, I really did; but the lovely green enlightened woman gave me nightmares. I accept, humbly and gratefully, the knowledge transmitted directly through John's palm into my forehead, and I hope that someday I will activate it and understand.

I still have the book, though I haven't opened it.


Blogger Emma Goldman said...

That's so cool. You can still be a boddhisatva--just not THAT one, I guess! (and that's always been a goal of mine, as well.)

4:42 PM  
Blogger kStyle said...

You just inspired another post for me--the different paths to the divine in Hinduism. Stay tuned...

9:42 AM  
Blogger Eric said...

My parents always taught me that a brave person admits when he doesn't know something.

What's a Bodhisattva?

9:54 AM  
Blogger kStyle said...

Bodhisattvas, as I understand it, are beings who have atttained enlightenment but choose to be reincarnated (rather than join the Nirvana party---not the band) to help others on the path to enlightenment. Emma?

11:30 AM  
Blogger Emma Goldman said...

Yup; that's it. I aspire to the compassion in that--it reminds me of something a yoga teacher once said at the end of class (I suspect it was from a standard buddhist prayer of some kind), something like "may all beings live in peace and may I help in that." But much better said. What I really think it does is encourage all of us to act as though people are, in fact, watching (as opposed to the "dance as though noone's watching" line that people use), not because we should be worried about other people's opinions all the time, but because how we are in the world is always a model of how one CAN be in the world.

2:53 PM  
Blogger kStyle said...

also, the bodhisattva was a transformational concept to Buddhism. It's not found in the earliest Buddhism, which was a "seek enlightenment for yourself" kind of deal. The idea of Bodhisattvas added a more altruistic, outward compassion to a very introverted practice.

4:03 PM  
Blogger Jason said...

May all sentient beings have happiness and the root of happiness.
May they be free from suffering and the root of suffering.
May they never be separated from the highest bliss which is without suffering.
May they come to rest in limitless equanimity which is free from attachment and aversion.

10:34 PM  

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