Is This Religion or Not?
Medicine Buddha opens to healing beyond religion. Menla works over the entire hospital of life, making sure all aspects operate in top form, but he never asks your religion when you check in. This healing path is for everyone.
If we look at Menla’s life story and what he represents, we see basic qualities of wakeful, compassionate, and profound healing, all in the most basic human terms. He is heart, inspiration, and love. He is truly iconic—seemingly abstract, but universal and to the point.
The traditions we call religion can support us in these ideals, but there are no requirements here. This is human, through and through. But when it comes to healing, what is human?
To begin, we humans may not always be able to change what we have in life, but we can change how we hold it. Rather than struggle, Menla learned to hold problems in a bigger view, a view wherein everything, no matter how awful, is workable. Doing so, openings appeared in the collected pieces of life’s puzzle. Glimmers of light shined through those openings as things tumbled into their own places, and from that, the healing began. Committing to holding our life in this way—and we all can—we too can begin our healing path.
As things improved, instead of just going on his merry way, he resolved to use his natural health to help himself and others with their path to health and the ultimate wisdom beyond words. Isn’t that something that we all would like to do in our own way?
Our path through a problem can be brightened by holding that goal of helping others like a lamp in our heart. Sometimes the worst part of a problem is not the pain, but how that pain constricts our view of our world and our way of living. If we focus on our pain, it can gain so much power that we shrink our world down to a dark little point called “ME-OUCH.” Of course, we need to stay alert to how we manage our healing, but if we tighten our mind we can get stuck in a battle with life. Menla went beyond that, and with his example and support, we can too, regardless of our religious orientation.
So, we might ask, “Menla is called Medicine Buddha, but he is not strictly Buddhist. So what is he?” Perhaps we moderns, exposed as we are to so much diversity, can be too quick to label, categorize and solidify what we see as differences. Remember, we are all refugees of the heart in some way.
Buddhism can indeed be an identity at times, but it can also be a basic, non-denominational platform upon which we can help ourselves and others be more steady in the turmoil of life. From this stability we can be more focused and functional in life. This platform doesn’t require a label. It is the home within. When we are home we take off our uniform, be ourselves and truly tend to the heart.
Menla is family, and even community. Everyone in this family shares the ideals of being honest, open, and helpful. A family name might be useful but is not required. Menla is also a vision of health and a way of life—all dedicated to celebrating the potential we all have to live with a smile that heals. Have you ever experienced a smile that brightened your day? Menla can help us grow our natural smile to brighten our world and our life.
Buddhism viewed in this way is a way to support all beings in meeting life face to face. True, there are some Buddhist practices that require focused preparation. But this is how illness does us a great favor. Illness and problems can take us to the heart of what counts in life. No preparation needed. When we are sick, we get to know something close to the heart—issues that can be difficult to find in any other way.
Every single person, regardless of religion, has a natural mind as wide and bright as that autumn sky high in the mountains, that can shine a ray of love from the heart to the world, can hold all life issues in a steady, mindful acceptance and can vow to help the world in whatever way is possible. We can all be Menla, whatever our religion. We are the hospital of all healing, the medicines, the healer we need to be right now. Menla just helps us realize how to do it.
Finally, if you do have a religious path, Menla can help you contact and integrate aspects of that path into your life. And if you are interested in Buddhist path, Menla provides a wonderful foundation for learning the entire Buddhist tradition in depth.
Here is one person’s experience—
My first meeting with Menla:
After my prolonged period of depression, isolation, and self-loathing, and with a help of my counselor at the time (forever grateful), I slowly joined the world. And although my counselor tried, in many ways, to point out I was OK, I simply couldn’t get it. I continued to be very hard on myself, desperately seeking the “purpose” for my existence. I remembered the hard times I had during my adolescence and healing influence books based on Buddhism had on me those days. So I came to Shambhala, Victoria. First weekend retreat offered was “Maitri Five Wisdoms”. This retreat left me happy, excited and full: I AM ANA, and I AM O.K.
Since than I practiced Medicine Buddha many times, and result is more often then not similar: playful, cheerful, innocent, warm Ana arises. I love that Ana. The world loves that Ana.
Thank you Menla. Thank you Shambhala.