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The Buddha

The Buddha liked metaphors of crossing bodies of water to explain what he was on about.

It’s an apt metaphor. Depending on the body of water, one can see the other side, of a river, for example, and decide to try to cross because one believes that the other side is preferable to this side. The Buddha, and modern Buddhist teachers, like to use the image of a raft as the vehicle to carry us from this side of the river to that. Imagine that the Buddha, or your favorite Buddhist teacher, is standing on the far side of the river, summoning you.

This teacher says the raft actually takes us nowhere. This claim is consistent with the idea that we already have Buddha nature, we just need to recognize it in ourselves.

One thing I learned from teaching is that there is virtue in stating the same point many different ways because one never knows which particular statement will resonate with which listeners.

Another way of putting the same point, more concrete, sort of, is to talk about Buddha mind and say that we all have Buddha mind in our heads, we just need to listen for it and to it.

I like this explanation because one clear effect of my meditation practice has been to turn down the volume of the thoughts inside my head.

Buddhist teachers are quick to say that thoughts are not the enemy. Buddhists should have no enemies at all. Thoughts per se are not a problem. We just need to strive to be mindful of our thoughts and let most of them go immediately because the vast majority of our thoughts just have the effect of perpetuating our ideas about who we are, which are usually mistaken, according to Buddhism.

The Buddha mind knows everything and is a fount of wisdom, but it speaks in silence, so you have to get your monkey mind, or every day mind, as quiet as possible to hear what it has to say.

A common saying among some Buddhists is, the goal is the path and the path is the goal, which is another way of saying that you need to travel nowhere to nowhere, you just need to recognize the awakening that is right in front of you. Another way to cross a river, far more common now than in the time of the Buddha, is a bridge. The Buddha suggested using a raft to cross the river, then leaving the raft behind because it is no longer useful.

Buddha mind is a bridge to nowhere. Or, it is a bridge to awakening. But, since all is impermanence in this realm, as you cross the bridge, once you awaken, the bridge disappears and you are falling into enlightenment, where you never land.

Written by

Uppity gay, Buddhist, author, historian.

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