12 November 2010

The Bodhisattva Koan

There is hurt all around me.

• I have a sister who is having a very hard time accepting that her marriage has fallen apart largely because of her actions.
• I have a Dharma brother who has everything going for him yet has something within him that keeps him feeling inadequate and under-accomplished.
• I have a colleague who, after a routine health screening, was diagnosed with liver cancer and has been given four months to live.
• I have a friend who is a gifted, conscientious teacher, yet receives scant support to do his best in an overcrowded classroom with a higher than average number of behavior-disordered students and students with learning disabilities, and it is draining him.

It is no cop-out to say that I cannot fix them or their situations.  Nothing in my experience tells me I'm any kind of messiah, and I'm old enough to know something of how the world works.   So if I say, with Śāntideva,
May I be protector for those without one,
A guide for all travelers on the way;
May I be a bridge, a boat and a ship
For all who wish to cross (the water).

May I be an island for those who seek one
And a lamp for those desiring light,
May I be a bed for all who wish to rest
And a slave for all who want a slave.

May I be a wishing jewel, a magic vase,
Powerful mantras and great medicine,
May I become a wish-fulfilling tree
And a cow of plenty for the world
what am I saying, really, when the rubber hits the road?

And if deep down I also know that no one can be helped as long as there arises a thought of the helped, the helping and the helper, and that true giving, following Bodhidharma, is done "without the vanity of giver, gift, or recipient, and without bias or attachment," then...


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