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Buddhadharma : Summer 2014
SUMMER 2 0 1 4 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 59 this dramatically, but there are other less dra- matic ways that life calls us back to the perfect completeness of the eternal present: the ringing telephone, the crying baby, an embrace with someone we love, the golden light of the late afternoon sun high in the trees, the call of a distant crow. Life is continuously calling out to itself. We only have to listen. After rebuffing Bahiya’s request for teaching three times, the Buddha opens his compassion- ate heart to this ardent and very ripe seeker, this one who has literally dropped it all, emptied himself of everything except his burning urgency for awakening and freedom. The Buddha meets this naked openness with a simple and power- ful teaching: “Bahiya, this is how you should train yourself: whenever you hear a sound, sim- ply hear; whenever you see a sight, simply see; whenever you taste a flavor, simply taste; when- ever you feel a sensation, simply feel; whenever a thought arises, let it be simply a thought. Then, Bahiya, ‘you’ will not exist; whenever you do not exist, you will not be found in this world, another world, or in between. That is the end of suffer- ing.” Bahiya gets it completely—he swallows it whole, digests it instantly, and is fully awakened. When the Buddha speaks to Bahiya, he is also speaking directly to us over the span of centuries. Each of us is Bahiya being told, “Please train yourself like this!” But how can we do it? The gateway to wisdom, compassion, sim- plicity, and wholeness is in what stands before us right now. Whatever is here now—fear, judg- ment, irritation, fogginess of mind—is where we are. Can we meet the mind states that reactively arise in us with complete attention? This is the work of knowing the self in relationship. And it is often a hard road. Life is always presenting new challenges to flush out the corners of our self-conditioning and giving rise to fresh opportunities for us to wake up again into our natural state and see exactly where we are stuck. As Huineng observed centu- ries ago, “As far as buddhanature is concerned, there is no difference the mind, leaving us neither here nor there. By learning how to live fully and with freedom from suffering in the life we actually have, we open the door of transformation as exemplified by Bahiya. Doing so means having the willing- ness to acknowledge and stay with the gap that inevitably appears between our actual life and the one we imagine; it requires us to honestly assess how we are living, then to act directly and immediately on that information. This practice alone can revolutionize our life. So here is Bahiya, the ideal student. And here we are, the actual one. Can we begin to examine our own pursuit of freedom? Can we question how we are actually living? Are we willing to confront our choices? The first question might be, How do I want to live? Then, How am I actu- ally living? And finally, Am I willing to inquire deeply into the gap between the two so that my life might become less divided and contradictory? Bahiya inspires us with his persistence and urgency before meeting the Buddha; he then inspires us in that encounter as well. He is respectful but tenacious, unwilling to be deflected or put off until another time. There is a clear and penetrating understanding that there is no other time but now—that nothing can be put off into the future because the future does not exist. It is completely unpredictable. Now is now and that is all there is. Even now is already on its way to becoming something else. Now is the only time we can do what is most important for us to do. We say we’ll do it tomorrow, but tomorrow never comes. It is always and only in this moment that transformation and freedom can occur. It is only in this moment that we can live, love, and die. The urgency and fire of Bahiya’s persistence is fed by his knowledge of impermanence. We live in a body that is both amazingly resilient and exquisitely fragile. A bump on the head with the right force and we are suddenly somebody else. Bahiya has a clear sense that death is always close at hand, and he uses this awareness with great skill in his pursuit of freedom. What is it that feeds the fire of our urgency? Death-aware- ness practice, or marana-sati, can certainly do this, as can an unwelcome medical diagnosis or a close brush with death. These encounters can wake us up to the fact that the next moment is promised to no one. We have a choice about how we will live this moment. The end of Bahiya’s story reinforces When the Buddha speaks to Bahiya, he is also speaking directly to us over the span of centuries. Each of us is Bahiya being told, “Please train yourself like this!” ➤ continued page 83