Who is Buddha?
And why would we need what sounds like a religious approach if all we really want to do is get over or through our problem? These are excellent questions, and coming to some working sense of these issues provides a good foundation for appreciating how Menla can help us join and progress along the paths of ordinary and spiritual health in this often difficult life of ours.
Buddha is beyond any one religion. We can see Buddha in the natural radiance of all life.
First, the term, Buddhism, is a misnomer that can frame our healing journey in a somewhat misleading way. That is because isms tend to be externally arising themes that we adhere to in life. We may invest in all kinds of isms, but those isms are not us. The Buddhist path, on the other hand, comes from within and helps us be more true to who we are. There are basic meditation practices in this Buddhism, but there is not just one true path. There are many Buddh-ism paths. In fact, it has been said that there is one for each person who wants to travel life in a wakeful way.
Our particular Buddhist path, whatever form it takes, is just a way show us our own inherent strengths. Following our path is like looking into a mirror, much as the person in this image is doing. You can see the reflection of her right hand in the mirror. When you practice in the way of The Buddha, it is as though you are looking into a very good mirror, one that is so good that you see not a part of yourself, or who you think you are, but all of who you really are!
When you first start looking into that mirror, you may not have any idea even how to see what is there. That is how the image of Buddha can help. He gives us hints about who we are below all the confusions of our often distracted mental processes. You might sense of this wakeful wholeness from the close up of a statue of Buddha. He is at peace with himself and his world. He is engaged. And he is fully awake. We are that way too when we are true to who we are.
As we go along in our practice, we won’t need images to show us who we are. We will know in our heart that we have a wakefulness within that can light our path in life. And as we go along, we will see that the ism part of our journey shifts from being a personal practice to being a way to serve others.
Our path is a celebration of the fundamental goodness and others beyond all concept.
Here we see the sun in a beautiful blue sky. Clouds are present, but the light of that sun shines through. In some Buddhist traditions our inner goodness is likened to the sun, lighting everything it shines on equally, nourishing all equally, helping every plant, animal and force of nature to live, grow and blossom in its own natural way. This sun of great wisdom, no matter what we call it, no matter what has happened, is always and forever in our heart.
So, in the end, we call our path Buddhist because it leads directly to our innermost brilliant heart, the source of all healing and strength. When we see and then know that brilliant heart, we know that our illnesses and problems are always external to our core health. We may be sad at times, or in pain, but we are never broken. Realizing this is true healing. Knowing that, we might want to thank whatever helped us get to that point, even our difficult problem. And when we commit to our practice, whatever it may be, in this tradition, we are committing to the brightest part of who we really are in all our life. Nothing need be added, nothing taken away.
And now back to who is Buddha. Of course, The Buddha we usually first hear about was a human being just like us, who lived around 2600 years ago in India, and who gave us the teachings we still use today as a guide for our spiritual journey. He offered what we use as a religious path, but he himself was beyond religion. And there have been many Buddhas, including the one we call Medicine Buddha. Like all Buddhas, Medicine Buddha vowed to light our spiritual journey. But he also made a particular vow to help us work better with ordinary life obstacles that might obstruct this very journey. So he vowed to help is in both ordinary world problems and in our spiritual quest. This is the total health we all desire.
Ultimately, the Buddhist path helps us answer the question, “Who am I?”
Buddhas can also go beyond human form. Buddhas can appear as aspects of the world we meet when our mind is open to whatever life brings, elements both pleasant and unpleasant. Buddhas can also appear in our own ways of being true to the wakefulness we were born with and can never lose. This wakefulness is available to us at all times and is the very place real healing can begin. When you practice Medicine Buddha, you will meet all these Buddhas in your life. Psychic wounds will begin to heal. Karmic burdens will lighten. You will see any dark places in your experience as openings for the sun within to light your path in life.
And finally, Buddha always within. It is true. Our true nature is awake.