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Buddhadharma : Winter 2014
winter 2 0 1 4 buddhadharma: the Practitioner’s quarterly 19 and absolute). One thread that connects these two stations along the path is maitri, or loving-kindness toward oneself. So first and foremost, be kind to yourself, which in itself is transformative. If the Buddha were here, he would want you to be happy. If becoming a woman truly makes you happy, he would encourage that. But he might also suggest that your longing for change points to something even deeper, as your question itself implies. So while it’s important to honor the relative, the strength of Buddhism lies in its teachings on the absolute. That’s the perspective I want to emphasize. Your question suggests to me that you’re homesick for the absolute, and that homesickness is expressing itself in this relative way. This is not to dismiss your desire to find a true form but to help you put it in perspective. Sex reassignment could be just one step toward the recovery of the “true self” you’re looking for. In many ways, this is the central inquiry of the spiritual journey. Ramana Maharshi developed an entire path based on the question “Who am I?” Not knowing the answer is the source of all our suffering; discovering it is the basis of our liberation. Until we wake up to who we really are, we’re all victims of a primordial identity theft. You originally thought you were a man, only to find you’re actually a woman. Good for you. You’re looking within and trying to recover a truer identity. But the finite cannot contain the infinite; if we identify with that form, it will always feel like something is missing. How can you work with the absolute level? Even as you move forward with your surgery, when the thought comes up that you’re a woman—or a man—try to identify with the space between those thoughts. Let those thoughts come and go like clouds floating through the open sky. You’re the sky. Take refuge in that. From that open perspective, you will relate to whatever arises in your heart and mind properly and no longer lose yourself in any form. So abandon even the concept that “My thoughts are me.” Take your unshakeable feeling that there is a deeper truth and use it to propel you toward that truth. That feeling is beautiful. Let your choice and your questions serve as cat- alysts for deeper investigation. Once you properly identify yourself as no-self, you will naturally express that selflessness as compassion and fulfill your longing—in any form. That’s when you’ll really shine. Do you have a question about Buddhist teachings or practice? We want to hear from you. Send your question to firstname.lastname@example.org