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Buddhadharma : Spring 2019
92 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER'S QUARTERLY awakening and not awakening but rather by all of the contours lived in the range in-between. If we can monitor and be aware of the totality of the experience of awakening and not awakening, we can stay connected to both without bypassing either. Reverend Dr. Mar- tin Luther King Jr. wrote: “We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope.” We need both—the absolute aspiration of unconditioned hope and the relative path, which is filled with constant disappointment. If we have only the aspiration of the enlightened ideal, how do we ever get there? If we only have the path with no guiding North Star, where are we going and what is the point of it all? The inspiration for our practice often rests on one single moment: the Buddha’s awakening beneath the bodhi tree. But that is not the totality of his biography. Tradition tells us it took him thousands of lifetimes to awaken. We have stories about the Buddha’s previous lives in the Jataka tales, and in them he was not perfect, not fully awake, even though each illustrates how the perfections (paramis) of dharma practice ripened in those lifetimes of the bodhisattva. They show the paramis ripening, but not yet ripe. All those moments of non-awakening serve an indispensable purpose in the path to awak- ening. We must fully live the moments of non-awakening in order for freedom to arise. We can’t simply aspire to enlightened states of mind and heart without a realistic, flawed human path. In the Saccamkira Jataka, a prince in danger of drowning is pulled from the water by a beggar ascetic (the future Buddha). Being an untruthful and ungrateful person, the prince disingenuously tells the future Buddha that he can come anytime to his kingdom for sup- port. When the prince becomes king, the ascetic visits his kingdom. Instead of supporting the ascetic, the king has him beaten in the streets and orders his execution. When the ascetic is asked in the streets what the trouble is between him and the king, he tells the story. The populace and guards become so enraged that they kill the king and drag his body through the streets, dumping it in the moat. The ascetic is then anointed the new ruler. opposite | Blue Flower, 2004 COURTESYOFARTVIETNAMGALLERYANDARTIST