‘Above the heavens and below the earth, I alone am the world-honored one.’
~ Gautama Buddha
It sounds kind of strange, but we really need an ‘I’ to lose an ‘I’. A few nights ago, in celebrating the traditional December 8 enlightenment of the Buddha, we engaged the above words at the Camp. In our heartfelt discussion, we talked a little bit about the possible arrogance of the statement: ‘I alone am the world-honored one’. Indeed!
It is my thought, that perhaps we need an ego, an individual sense of self, to forget the self. The way I see it, enlightenment is not really about losing the self, it is about gaining the universe. And when we come to understand, in some way, that ‘Jon’, for example, is not different from ‘clouds and rain’, there is both an appreciation for our individual self and a knowing that our most basic self is universal, to put so many words to it. ‘Who am I?’ the koan asks. Well, of course, I am Who. And Who does not pass away.
Our neighborhood was rocked last Christmas when we got news that a much-adored family, who took their 8-year old son with an apparent fever to the hospital on Christmas Eve, lost him the next day. In their holiday card this year, the family wrote: ’When he died last year, the beauty of the world mocked us. How can strawberries be so red without him? How can we still stand? How are buildings and trees still up? We now know the pain and hardness of life.’
Dearest and kindest neighbor, your beautiful son made the strawberries red and bid the trees to stand. He alone is the world-honored one.