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Buddhadharma : Fall 2014
FALL 2 0 1 4 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 9 THE MERCIFUL AVATAR When things don’t go your way, says Terrance Keenan, you can thank the compassionate Buddha. In Buddhism there is the phenomenon of the merciful avatar. Commonly, the merciful ava- tar is understood to be a manifestation of the Buddha sent to teach you not to be such an egotistical jerk. When someone cuts you off while driving—that’s the merciful avatar at work. When someone at a meeting humili- ates you with a cutting remark—the merciful avatar is just doing his job. It assumes other manifestations, such as when you are feeling a bit superior or thinking you have got some clue of what is going on. There was once a chap at Dai Bosatsu monastery who could not sit still in the zendo or even keep his rakusu, a vestment worn over the robe, straight. He dropped jel- lybeans during walking meditation. He took too much tea and then spilled it on himself, his cushion, and the floor in front of him. He looked more like a drunken Friar Tuck than an austere Buddhist ascetic. He was a mess. He made everyone feel great. Each of us did so much better. We were so obviously superior that we tolerated, nay, welcomed his insufficiencies as a contrast to our own. Then, one day, on a warm, very still afternoon, when the silence of the zendo was deepest, when even he seemed to be silent and still and samadhi seemed at hand for every- one, he leaned slightly to one side and farted. Hugely, freely, dharma thunder. Everyone’s serenity vanished instantly in snickers, giggles, and eventual roars of laugh- ter until the zendo monitor had to bellow for everyone to be still. Each of us groaned in the agony of keeping laughter in. No thought was given to the True Way. He shattered our holy fantasies. FROM ZEN ENCOUNTERS WITH LONELINESS, FORTHCOMING FROM WISDOM PUBLICATIONS, NOVEMBER 2014 THE MONASTERY DOWN THE STREET Stepping into a dharma center, says Anyen Rinpoche, is a precious opportunity to step away from your ordinary life. When we go to a dharma center, we are actively supporting one another’s spiritual path. For those precious hours, we have the opportunity to abandon all of our worldly concerns. When you come to the center, think to yourself, “I am going to leave behind all of the things that distract me—my work, all of my projects, my entertainments, my rela- tionships—and try to act like the masters of the past who left their society and worldly life.” Leave everything behind and come to the center and try to develop your dharma practice. It takes a lot of time, it takes a lot of energy, and we have to have a lot of diligence. But slowly, at a certain point, because of the commitment that we keep, we will find the ILLUSTRATIONS ERIC HANSON FIRST THOUGHTS