Friday, August 27, 2010

This Is A Photograph of Buddha

Namo! To the Dharmakaya Wisdom Mother, Awareness and Emptiness,
Primordially perfected, I take refuge.
The sentient beings of the six realms are actually Buddhas;
In order to awaken this true nature, I generate bodhichitta.

--Refuge preliminary from a terma of Kunzang Dechen Lingpa

Above, is a photograph of Buddha.

This may come as a shock to those of us who are accustomed to visualizing Buddha as an idealized, serenely smiling, one dimensional image in a painting. Most of us see Buddha the way we have been taught to see Buddha by such paintings, or even sculpture, and the carefully diagrammed visualizations in the sadhana texts.

But, when we see an actual image of Buddha, most of us do not recognize what we are seeing. 

We think we see a starving native, in Africa: too weak to stand, crawling on the ground. A wretched, disease infested human, dragging himself away to die. 

All sorts of useless ideas and emotions suddenly arise. For example: we may think in terms of food, or medical attention. We may think of some humanitarian movement, or political change. We may become saddened to the point of tears -- we call that "feeling compassion" -- or we may become angry at the causes and conditions attendant on this poor, crawling human's obvious circumstance.

If one million of us look at this photograph of Buddha, maybe 999,999 of us will saturate our brushes from that palette of ideations.

But, one of us -- or, at least, hopefully one of us -- will actually see.

Upon actually seeing, perhaps we can form the very firm intention to proceed in the best possible way; to proceed in a way that does not involve temporal solutions, tears, angers, causes, separations into "them" and "us," or all the rest of the delusions that produced this delusion in the first place.

You cannot save the world by saving the world. This is 2010, and there are all sorts of resources available for the Buddha in the photograph above. There are hundreds of international organizations, bundles of money, air drops of supplies, aid without borders, mothers with continually bleeding hearts, courageous workers, courteous diplomats, noble statesmen, brave generals, willing soldiers, generous donors --- these have been around for decades, they are around now, but somewhere in this world, somewhere at this very moment, Buddha is still crawling on the ground.

This Buddha has not heard the elegant dharma talks we have heard. This Buddha has not smelled the exquisite fragrances of the costly incense that we burn. This Buddha will never experience the opportunities we have experienced -- and really, if he did, it wouldn't make very much difference at all.

Spend much time practicing today?

Maybe tomorrow, eh?

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14 reader comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Oh Shit... from a warm apartment with a half finished glass of red... this blogette is a cracker of an insight... into? Anti-poverty Week 17-23 Octoer 2010 Australia

Padma Kadag said...

I don't think that shedding tears, showing anger,etc keeps one from "seeing". I think I know what your point is. But i would have to say that it seems as though it verges on a sort of renunciation which is without bodhicitta. I think this is the way in which it is written. We can talk about ultimate and relative this and that...But I am not sure this article reflects what you really wanted to say. Then your "call to practice" is over the top. It is almost like you are saying.."see as I see and then you will really be doing practice"...But I think you were not really saying this. Were you?

Homohabilis said...

Thank you for the reminder.

Mr. Natural (a.k.a. Śri Nisargadatta Maharaj) sez: "It is only when you realize fully the immense sorrow of your life and revolt against it that a way out can be found."

Dorje P. said...

Thank you for publishing this. Padma I think you missed the point of what he was saying and how he was saying it so entirely that it makes me wonder why you are resisting. This was an AFFIRMATION of bodhicitta both relative and ultimate. The call to practice said "Stop making excuses and go for the ultimate remedy for all this." Afflictive emotions do most certainly prevent one from seeing. Can you think of anything else that does so completely? This is a brilliantly constructed dharma teaching of the highest possible order. I showed it to my teacher (a lama) and he said "This is perfect."

Anonymous said...

Buddhas Buddhas Everywhere
But never a Buddha seen!

Stephen said...

The picture makes us think of the bigger REAL picture : the futility /vanity of the paper chase and the rat race , all the targets we must meet at work and in school. Does it really matter if we meet the targets in school or at work ? why all those hundreds if not thousands of protocols ? If we fail to do so, so what , right ? Who created those targets and for what ? Some teachers and bosses at school and at work will expound the "dharma" about the need for anger management and focus on priorities , BUT they are simply making sure that you meet their expectations. Are they really interested in the Buddha's Dharma or is it worldly dharma ?? When people see that photo, they think about the futility/vanity of base, gross sensual pleasures, but they ignore something far worse...

Stephen said...

Survival ? A challenge to those "perform" at school and at work : will you willingly sacrifice the rat race and paper chase and settle for far less, to be easily contented with little ?

Patricia said...

Thank you, Lama. An excellent discourse on why and how we should all practice.
om mani padme hum

NTZ said...

At the same time, ignoring the very "real" proximate causes of things like this is inexcusable.
We say we practice for all beings, but what sort of sham is it to make visualized offerings to those starving around you?

Anonymous said...


Buddhas will continue to crawl, starve and suffer. Buddhas will continue as long as there are sentient beings. Buddhas are all around. We've only been fortunate enough to know about one of them that has completed the process.

How is this process completed? By developing bodhicitta, the desire to help all sentient beings. By working with a mind rooted in non-duality, one can work on the subtle and gross levels simultaneously to help universally and to help locally.

Yeah, I practice. With each breath. With each moment. For the benefit of all sentient beings in the ten directions and three times, may I become a Buddha to help those in need and to help them become Buddhas as well.

Nicholas said...

Dear Sir,
You are a great teacher.

Anonymous said...

You are on your own, we are all alone, that's what the picture says.

Anonymous said...

Or, the picture just accurately portrays that this is a suffering place when your a mundane being stuck down in it. All the pure view talk in the world does not change the fact that the majority of suffering beings are stuck down in the apparently-devoid-of-reality off kilter Samsaric realms. Its real when your down in it and think its real, like most.