Being a Buddha may not be what you imagined… is a Buddha reserved for one man, Shakyamuni? Does he have to lay on his right side and appear as calm as in deep sleep? Does a Buddha wear long orange robes, engage in Tantric Green Tara visualisation, or sit on a cushion for hours a day?
Actually, we are all Buddha. Human beings are really not separated intrinsically, yet we create false divisions all the time: skin colour, gender, class, career, net worth, and so on. Yet, we can see through the imaginary nature of these false dichotomies when we realise they are only relative. That is, they must be compared with one another or something else. Human beings are good at separation; especially in the west, we are obsessed with scientific reasoning to understand reality — yet, when asked what the idea of “hell” would be like, if there is one, to a group of Tibetan Buddhists, they answered, “hell is thinking predominantly with the rational mind!” As we see, even the way science understands reality is relative to abstraction, chaos, irrationality, and imagination.
Really, a Buddha is the fundamental nature available to every life form. As westerners, we have been conditioned to believe we are a “meat-body” that represents us, and we get to taste all the 5-sense pleasures and pains of life, and then we go back to the earth and that’s it. Buddhists have quite a different view, and a Buddha is awake to his/her true nature while still in a body. Buddhists believe they are not the body (as opposed to western thought) and are also not the mind; there is ‘an aspect’ of us beyond both body and mind that, when found, reveals enlightenment to us.
Language can only go so far to describe this. It’s similar to eating a banana. We can talk all day about the taste and colour and texture and emotions and memories associated with eating a banana, but the actual eating-the-banana can never fully be described. It is by experience alone that we know anything about eating the banana in its full capacity. This is similar to explaining Buddha nature or enlightenment. The Buddha was said to be so stunned after his enlightenment that he remained completely silent for 49 days before even beginning to explain or teach to anyone. But he knew he had to — and there lies one conundrum. Because westerners identity with thought over experience and feeling and being quiet with it, language creates division and tough debates once again.
Really, a Buddha is shorthand for two things, simultaneously:
1. Our true nature, which we cannot not be
2. One who is seeking this true nature / the fundamental nature of reality / the truth / God, etc. and who puts in sincere effort to find it and therefore gains wisdom and compassion
Here, the paradox is that this true nature cannot not exist, because separation does not exist, yet we also have time and wrong identification with transitory things (the body, material objects, status, employment, other people, memories, feelings, etc) simultaneously and we try to become a Buddha — and awaken. Even more paradoxically, a Buddha does not even have to be a Buddhist, since this is relational and denominational. Even more more paradoxically, a Buddha does not even have to know he/she is seeking awakening and can live a completely mundane existence without further questioning of reality beyond eating, sleeping, and making love and money. But, the wheel of Samsara explains this by showing how we are constantly evolving, both in this life and subsequent lives, because we cannot not change and evolve. So, what’s the conclusion?
We are all seeking something. That something is happiness, whether identified as happiness or not. Some figure out that transitory things can never make them happy and look at alternative ways of finding everlasting happiness. These people finally become Buddhas through their search and efforts. It takes human-time. We will all eventually awaken, because we cannot not evolve. Some of us have taken the vow to help other beings awaken fully, because we cannot be satisfied with being blissed out without our brothers and sisters being fully blissed out at the same time: this is called a Bodhisattva. Shakyamuni Buddha was a Bodhisattva and is here helping us through the preservation of his teachings and contact through visualisation and meditation, and he has not abandoned anyone. Therefore, hold the Dharma dear and awaken on your merry way!
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your comments and questions.