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  • Lama Jigme Gyatso

What was the Buddha?


What was the Buddha?

Was he a God,

an avatar of Vishnu

masquerading as a man;

as so many Hindus claim?

I hope NOT

for that could diminish

his achievement.

And what achievement

is that?

That a man,

born to wealth, privilege, and power

forsook his wealth, privilege, and power

to find peace, and love, and freedom.

But there are many of us

who prefer to think

of the Buddha as a God

in man’s clothing.

Why?

Why could many prefer that?

So that they might feel

that they are proverbially

off the hook.

For, if the Buddha

was NOT a mere man,

who became so much more,

then why should they

likewise evolve

to also become

so much more?

These are the same

type of folks,

who had they been born

into a so-called Christian culture

would have preferred to think of the Christ

as merely baby Jesus

that they might feel less threatened

than they would

by the Jesus who fasted,

or the Jesus who wept,

or the Jesus who rioted,

or the Jesus who was tortured,

or the Jesus who was killed.

Whether the Buddha,

sometimes known as Gautama,

or Siddhartha,

or Shakyamuni;

whether this Buddha was historical

or purely archetypical

he taught


a philosophy

of love and letting-go

as well as a set of techniques

with which to master it.

A tale is told

that a man approached the Buddha

peppering him with questions:

Are you a man?

Are you a God?

To which the Buddha

is said to have responded,

I am awake.

Yet despite the Buddha’s insistence

that folks refrain

from ritual, and asceticism, and grasping

over numerous centuries

many have come to view him

as a god:

bowing, and offering , and mumbling prayers:

concise, middling, lengthy, very lengthy

or Bija, Mantra, Dharani, or Sadhana,

if you prefer Sanskrit.

Ironically they performed ritual

(which he taught

was a poor substitute

for mindfulness)

And with those rituals

they begging him

for the rich life

and auspicious rebirth

(that he taught could only come

though our practice of love)

and beseeching him

for the selfsame

liberation and enlightenment

that he taught

could only come

from our practice

of mindfulness, and compassion,

and love, and letting-go.

Now, more than ever,

when humanity is lurching

beneath the burden

of its ever increasing

sexism, and racism, and classism,

and fascism, and ecocide

we have forsaken

the Buddha of history:

his techniques

and his example.

And in our greed, and fear,

and superstition, and lazy-mindedness

have come to treat him

as just another

object of worship,

like Miriam and Aaron’s

golden calf,

or like the gods of Greece:

aloof, and far, and distant

within their ivory towers

upon mount Olympus.

Be he man,

or be he archetype

his instructions,

and techniques,

and example

could have the power

to liberate us

from petty lives

defined by: fear, and greed,

and completion, and cruelty.

But his instructions, and techniques, and example

could only benefit us

separately as individuals

and collectively as a species

when we metaphorically roll-up our sleeves

and do the work

of applying them

every morning

and every evening.

Come

to: class, or webinar, or livestream.

Ask

your questions

jot down

my answers

do

your homework

and evolve

to be the person

that your dog

already thinks

you are.



Let us conclude

with a simple

call to action


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Some of these spiritual poems are also available on

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