The Buddha’s Homefield Advantage

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The Buddha

It never hurts to state the obvious. A lot of meditative realizations are really obvious once you have them, which makes sense, since a realization involves no new information, necessarily, but can be just a new perspective on existing information.

The current obvious observation is not a meditative realization, but just an empirical claim. I have never heard a Buddhist teacher make exactly this point, although Robina Courtin does point out that the Buddha lived in a culture that had been meditating and exploring human identity for thousands of years by the time he came along.

According to the official story of the Buddha’s life, the first thing he did after he left the palace and became a wandering mendicant was to study with the two leading meditation teachers of the day and master their practices. Then he spent several years as an ascetic before he had the surmise that meditation was the key to awakening, sat down under the bodhi tree, and achieved full awakening by the next morning.

It is not unreasonable to wonder why, if the Buddha could awaken overnight, does it seem as if we meditate day after day, but still don’t get there.

There could be many reasons, but one important one that we should all keep in mind is that the Buddha had a far more well developed meditation practice before the night of his awakening than we likely do. We might say that he had a sort of homefield advantage.

You are not deficient relative to the Buddha, he just had an enormous head start. Also, in general, if we put a large number of people on the same path and told them all to follow it, we would never expect that they would all travel at the same speed anyway. Your pace is your pace. It can’t be wrong.

So just keep meditating and expect to catch up to the Buddha at some point.

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Written by

Uppity gay, Buddhist, author, historian.

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