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Buddhadharma : Fall 2007
fall 2007| 34 |buddhadharma ations change, everything about us can change, too – what we think, feel, do, how we see the world, even what we believe and understand about life. Far from having a single personality, we are like the shards of a shattered mir- ror, each piece reflecting a different picture of the world. Yet we think of ourselves as the same person, a single entity that is consistent throughout the day. We are largely unaware that we are acting on the basis of the reflections of one shard in one moment, and another shard in the next. What would life be like if we approached life, our world of experience, consis- tently – that is, with a single personality, an awake personality, rather than as a collec- tion of shards? I use the term awake here instead of the more commonly used word, enlightened. Enlightened implies a state of being based on an idealized conception of human per- fection – an enlightened person as opposed to an unenlightened one. Awake is proba- bly more accurate, because it points to an experience, not a state. Awake also avoids the rational, political, and philosophical associations connected with the Age of Enlightenment. Finally, when asked what was different about him, Buddha Shakya- muni replied simply, “I’m awake.” This is not a beginning practice. You have to be able to tolerate not being you, at least for short periods of time. To explore the process of embodying an awake personality, we can start with something noncontroversial, namely, awake compassion. (Strange as it may seem, you can actually use any personality in this exercise. They all work. We’ll come back to that later. For now, we’ll work with awake compassion.) Awake Compassion We all know what unawake compassion looks like: persistent caretaking that can cross over into tyranny; a compulsion to rescue or help that ignores appropri- ate boundaries; a pitying attitude that masks feelings of superiority; or a blind naiveté that fails to see what is helpful or harmful. Instead, imagine being completely awake and present and, at the same time, embodying compassion. Imagine how you go about your day. How do you walk? How do you sit? When you see your spouse or children in the morning, how do you greet them? How do you prepare for the day? How do you drive to work? When you converse with people, how do you listen, how do you speak? What hap- pens in you when you see another person being mean or unpleasant? What happens (#532)vajrakilaya(detail),collectionofrubinmuseumofartwww.rmanyc.org