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Buddhadharma : Spri 2013
32 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY SPRING 2 0 1 3 lit from within; we feel the almost-overwhelming sentience of all things. And we become aware of what is expressed through us, inseparable from the light itself: awe, gratitude, humility, and a suddenly bottomless love. Yet we’re not enlightened because we experi- ence this light; the light is a way we experience the empty aspect of reality, which is all-pervasive, unconditioned, eternal, and undivided. Once, during a retreat, a woman lay down for a nap in a cottage at the end of a remote road. She awoke to a life-changing awareness of the light reaching everywhere, never blinking and never failing to hold even the smallest particle of existence. Buddhism is nondualistic, so this isn’t light as opposed to darkness but something that includes both. The Taoist idea of the Great Mysterious as the dark source of everything was incorporated into the dharma as images such as branches of light streaming from the dark, where the dark is the undifferentiated unity and the light is the manifest world. Without these balancing meta- phors, we run into the atom bomb problem, in which pure radiance can tip to something blind- ing and annihilating. We might find a lovely anti- dote in the purple-golden light illuminating the landscape that the Japanese koan master Hakuin evoked. After the Buddha’s own revelation in the dark of night, he had a time of doubt, when he wondered how he’d ever be able to communi- cate what he’d come to understand. It was only when his companions requested that he teach them that he stepped out from under the tree. This is the question of embodiment each of us faces: if the nature of the revelation is universal, the way each individual expresses it is particu- lar. We won’t all become age-defining teachers of the dharma, but in our family, community, work, and creative lives we learn to live our enlighten- ment, each in our own way. However, it’s not as though our awakening ends with revelation and then we figure out what to do with it; it’s actually through embodiment that enlightenment completes itself in us. This is one of the great mysteries of the Way— that enlightenment not only illuminates ordinary life but submits to its discipline. We have to give ourselves to the daylit world to learn how to turn revelation into matter—and in this way our awakening continues. As with practice, this can’t be accomplished by an act of self-will, which is why the Mahayana tradition offers the bodhisat- tva vow instead. The vow is usually described as the commitment to delay one’s own departure from the wheel of birth and death in order to remain in the world, working toward the awak- ening of all. It’s natural to see this as the most noble of sacrifices, but it’s also a description of what has to happen for enlightenment to com- plete itself. We don’t see the world as it is and then withdraw from it; we see the world as it is so we can most truly live as part of it. Our freedom isn’t from the world; it’s in the world. In some Mahayana traditions, the luminous totality of the universe, called the dharmakaya, fulfills a vow that all things should come into existence and grow toward awakening. The bod- hisattva vow harmonizes in microcosm with the dharmakaya’s macrocosmic vow: we will continue to exist, and we will dedicate ourselves to awaken- ing so that we might help everything that exists awaken, too. To take this vow is to allow our- selves to be pulled to that place where our enlight- enment is continuous with the universe’s—our vow continuous with the dharmakaya’s vow—so that there is no rub between our intention and its. And so we enter a phase of awakening that we might, perhaps surprisingly, call endarkenment. Awakening is a marriage of wisdom and compas- sion, and each has an aspect that is enlightening and one that is endarkening. The enlightening aspect of wisdom is a growing clarity of insight that puts doubts to rest and creates confidence. It’s about what we come to understand. The endarkening aspect of wisdom is our profound acceptance of the great mystery at the heart of things, which we can never understand in our ordinary ways but can rest in and be nourished by. This is sometimes called not-knowing mind. ©THETRUSTEESOFTHEBRITISHMUSEUM One of the puzzlements of the Way is that some people can seem to have substantial, even operatic, openings and still behave like jerks.