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Buddhadharma : Spring 2019
94 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER'S QUARTERLY While perhaps indicating a kind of justice, the outcome of the Jataka is not exactly a restorative, compassionate one. As with many of the parables, the Saccamkira concludes with a version of this phrase: When his (the future Buddha’s) days were come to an end, he passed away according to his deeds. And according to the imper- fect deeds of most of his lives, the Buddha did not awaken. That means, at least metaphorically speaking, before the precious moment of awakening, there were thousands of other times the Bud- dha-to-be did not awaken. If he was practicing mindfulness (and it is said one cannot become a buddha unless there is an initial intention to consciously do so), at some point in each of his unenlightened lives he must have become mindful of the fact that he was not awake. He became aware of his own limitations, his own failures, and his own shortcomings, which, despite his very best efforts, cumulatively were not going to lead to enlightenment in that lifetime. How disillu- sioning after doing the best he could in service of such goodness. Did the Buddha experience despair? Did he have self-pity or grief over enlightenment in that particular lifetime? Did the Buddha go through Dr. Kübler-Ross’ five stages of grief? Because he was human, I would guess the answer to these questions would be “yes.” He went through what humans go through when there is significant loss and despair. The future Buddha, in his humanity, would have needed to experience denial, anger, bargaining, and depression before accep- tance was possible. Yet the Buddha returned to practice—whether he was enlightened or not, despairing or not. That, to me, is significant. What would you do? What do you do? We have all been there, when we have done our best and yet, we may be far from perfect. We try for the best solution we can, and there might be some collateral injury, even serious harm, incurred along the way. We are not enlightened. How