Children of Buddha
As children of Buddha, we carry Buddha’s seed, our lives share the same source, move and mature through time to the same shared end. As children of Buddha, we grow, each at our own rate, each in our very own way, to become fully matured Bhddhas—our Buddhahood evolves naturally, blossoms fully when conditions have ripened.
In Buddhist communities, “Buddhas to be” are called Bodhisattvas. This designation also serves to characterize the way eventual Buddhahood is nurtured and sustained, the “food” implied being perspective, attitudes and actions. Over time—again, each in his or her own time—“Buddhas to be” begin to understand the presence of the seed, not just within themselves, but within all others as well. And as they do, they begin to see a universal mutuality of beneficial actions.
We are all of the same seed, our lives woven of the same, many-colored fabric. Buddhahood is not a solo act, but a joint venture in which all beings are participating. The real work and growth of the budding Buddha begins in earnest with this realization.
Much has been written and taught about the shape the Bodhisattva’s life might take; we learn of vows, perfections and precepts, and are fortunate to have deeply instructive resources available for study. I prefer a practical view that suggests the Bodhisattva way provides a tentative example of how ordinary human life, in this body, can manifest its fullest potential. However, since human life, life in general, unfolds moment-to-moment, all preconceived outlines of fulfillment become suspect, right from the start. We can never really be certain about how a Bodhisattva will act. What we do know, I think, is that it will be spontaneous and creative; it will be unpredictable, unknowable before hand and perhaps unrecognizable after the fact.
So we find ourselves, or I should say I find myself, even after many years, to be a bit confused about this Bodhisattva way and of course Buddhahood—what is it really all about? How does it relate to me, to my life? This confusion is to be expected, I suppose. After all, we are taught that it is beyond our capacity to grasp the enlightened mind. And for me this certainly seems to be true.
I mean I do have ideas about wise and compassionate actions. But as my wife will amply attest, I am far from spontaneous—plodding, over-worked logic is more my style. Paradoxically, these “plodding” inclinations of mine lead to the abstract and conceptual—not the places, we are also taught, we can expect to find true wisdom, real compassion. No, the spontaneity of Bodhisattvas is rooted in the blood and bones, the breath-by-breath reality of human existence, where it will actually be of some use.
I like to think of Bodhisattvas as on the ground, in real time---not virtual—and that I am in fact surrounded by them all the time, as they diligently work across the myriad, imagined boundaries I’ve created, patiently showing me, time and again, how to keep sight of the seed in others, how to stay aware of the seed they see so clearly in me. For my part, I mostly just bumble along, mostly don’t recognize them, except after the fact. For my part, I feel particularly lucky that despite my lackluster performance, oh and maybe even because of it, they keep working for me, on my behalf, making it look as if I’m actually working along with them. Yes, that’s what I feel, lucky to be one of the many children of Buddha, surrounded by so many others. Lucky indeed.