Two thousand six hundred years ago, a human being known as Siddhartha Gautama woke up. What does that mean? What is awakening but opening our eyes? What is awakening but an opening of our mind? What is awakening but letting go of the conditioning of our thinking?
Bodhi Day commemorates the awakening experience of Siddhartha Gautama, but Bodhi Day is also about celebrating this very moment. Bodhi Day is celebrating this WONDERFUL moment. Bodhi Day reminds us to ask, what is this? But it is a question that requires no answer. Because this moment doesn’t need an explanation. We simply open our eyes and reality is right in front of us, this moment is already here revealing everything.
Explanations are an attempt to say what reality, this moment, is like. But this moment isn’t like anything. It just is. We already see it. We just need to learn to stop trying to grab hold of it.
We are nearing the winter solstice: the shortest day of the year, and the longest night. It’s the time of year to celebrate the light inherent in darkness. We need light to see, and in awakening light is necessary. To see things as they truly are, we need the light of love--the light of wisdom. Our eyes might be open, but that doesn’t always mean we’re awake. We need to enter the dark and pierce through it with inner light.
Our life is calling out to us, and we can wake up to our calling. Awakening brings with it, the awe of discovering that joy is unconditional and exists in just being who we are. With Awakening also comes with the realization of our wholeness, our oneness with all life. We perceive that all beings possess their own awakening, that we are already awake, even now. Awakening is understanding that we habitually obscure our awakened nature with thoughts, memories, beliefs, ideas, and opinions. We learn that these obscuring concepts are what dim the light of our inherent awakened nature.
Many traditions around the world at this time celebrate the inevitable coming of the Light. Buddhists understand, however, abiding in the light is to abide in uncertainty. We cannot hold light. It is beyond our ability to grasp it. And yet, no matter what the source, star, planet, candle flame, inner light, or the light of wisdom. We seek light, and we celebrate light when the darkness seems so prominent. We must resist at this time to cling to concepts, to ideas and beliefs, in the attempt to feel secure. They are no more secure than shifting sands or a rippling sea. In the end, we must come to find security within uncertainty.
This time of year, many of us find our lives get hectic. We still are trying to learn how to have a better relationship with time. We have tons of things to do and we keep adding more and more to our never ending To Do list. When do you just stop and ask, what is this? What am I doing right this moment? Why not do this right now?
The Buddha taught Right View. Right View is simply seeing this moment as it is, here and now, moment after moment--no embellishments, no distortions. Right View is relying on what we experience directly--unfiltered by concepts, or conditioning--rather than what we think.
Consider our own life myths. What are the stories we’ve invested ourselves in? that we’ve depended on during the year? Were they programmed into us or did we make them up ourselves? Do they still fit? Do they line up with our experiences? What parts of our lives do we allow light to shine? What shadows lurk around its edges, making its illumination all the more cause for celebration, cherishing, and nurturing?
It’s good to explore our stories—to look beyond both dark and light—to appreciate our feet touching the earth, to wake up to our lives just where they are lived. To overlook such simple, yet essential valuables from our day-to-day lives is to be enslaved by the petty concerns of the small “i’”: I want...I must...I wish...I..I...I...We cut ourselves off from the awakening light when constantly ruminating on our past and obsessively plotting out our future. Without waking up to our own lives we risk never noticing the precious gift that is so abundant and immediate right before our eyes.
All we need to do is Awaken!
Happy Bodhi Day!
Ven. Myohye Do'an
A blog by the Lotus Heart Zen Meditation and Study Group members