A Sight to Behold!
Old Orchard Beach, Maine
The reflection of the moon on the water is a representation of the moon. Is it any less real than the moon? In some sense, the whole world is a reflection, so a representation, a shadow, but that does not negate its wonder or realness. Everything is real and more than we mean by "real." Buddhists speak of the "signlessness" of everything: nothing - words, images, metaphors - can tell us what anything is. Yet, this is not a problem; this is simply saying everything is true in a way we cannot grasp. Everything is ungraspable, yet we can know and experience it. Everything is and can become more.
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I picked up the Tibetan Buddhist mala. I used it for prayer, meditation, and chanting. The mala came from Nepal. I looked at it, holding it in my hands. It appeared different from before. Something had changed. The mala had not changed, however.
I sensed the mala had no inherent spiritual or religious meaning. It was not Buddhist. It was not Tibetan Buddhist. The mala was of one taste with all Nature, each form reflecting all others. Yet, the mala - this mala, was unique. The mala was totally natural in its own fashion, a garland of beautiful seeds like all seeds from Earth.
I saw the unadorned, naked mala mirroring the simplicity and naturalness of all Creation, a circle of seeds around a string and unburdened of the meaning and ends humans attached to it. Bare of all additional meaning, all causation or cessation, it had its own meaning. If we could say it had a purpose, the mala was to be a mala, which is to say, be itself.
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The mala is like us. We are bare of any added meaning or purpose. This is not nihilistic. The Way strips us of all nonessentials, dissolving them like a candle under a burning wick. The nonessentials may still appear, but they are seen for what they are - appearances, adornments. We lose even our sense of self, as it is swallowed up by the power of That we are - our True Self. Then, we see the self for what it is, and it is not Who we are. The self is an appearance. If we look closely, we cannot find a substantial, self-existing, and permanent self. Seeing this can be freeing, for we see it in seeing we are more than a self.
Consider a house and a home. Someone can have a house built. It may become home. It may not become home. Is it home, for it is a house? Home is something more subtle. In realizing home as home, one can honor the house as the place for home. One does not disown the house, saying, "You can't be home; you're only a house. I don't need you." Since the house is the place to grow a home, the house is respected, even reverenced, for being a house. The house and home can be in intimate communion, each being itself, each for the other. Even just seeing the house from a distance, someone who lives there may get the feeling of home. Wanting to be home, she may think of her longing to get back to the house after a trip or day at work. Yet, wisely seeing, she knows the house and home are not the same. She knows if the house burned down, the home would remain when love is shared among those who dwelt in the house.
I read recently from Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche's first lectures at Naropa University, shortly after he arrived in the United States. He referred to the ego and our situation. I was struck by what he said, felt the wisdom: "You have to give in to your ego, and you have to give in to your situation as well (Cynicism and Magic). This is like saying, "You don't throw away your house and go off to find home. You don't move from your neighborhood in search of home. Be fully with the house and what is around it - the people, climate, sky, ground, plants, buildings, neighbors, ... Home is there... already."
Likewise, we can awaken to see the truth of what things are and discover meaning and purpose through them. For example, the sound of a bell can posture the heart for reception of the grace of awakening. A morsel of bread and a sip of wine can be a means for a congregation to sense oneness with Christ. The shapes of matter are the means intangible Spirit enters our awareness. The body is a ground for the rising of the incorporeal Spirit.
I still often use a mala, one I have had for over ten years. I realize the mala is a mala. I recognize, too, there can be something magical about it. Holding the mala, I can enjoy more than the mala. It is and so can become more, for the consciousness we bring to things shapes our experience of them. Such as, when a person you experience as a stranger in time becomes whom you call your lover or a best friend. Things are and, so, they can become. What they are and become are equally real and true.
Life cannot be confined to scientific facts. Scientifically what is factual does not encompass what may be truthful. Hence, matter can be clothed so with meaning to become mythic. Mythic is not opposed to factual, even as subjective and objective are not mutually exclusive. When we disrobe matter of the mythical, thinking mythic is non-factual so untrue, we forfeit the power of the imaginal to enrich our lives. What is real includes the objective and subjective, the imaginal and factual, and a string of seeds and the Buddhist mala. Indeed, science is its own mythic space, for science cannot tell us what is present, only point us to actuality by its own imaginal systems. Science and religion are both metaphorical, as number-talk and God-talk point beyond themselves.
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I can relate with the mala as a string of seeds or a Buddhist mala. Either way is wonderous. Such is life. Things can be what they are and so much more. This is the magic of the sacraments in the Christian church. Indeed, anything, including this moment, is potentially a sacrament, not in denial of what it is but of what it becomes a means of to us receive. What we call stuff is a bridge to Spirit and for Spirit.
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*©Brian K. Wilcox, 2021.
*Brian's book, An Ache for Union: Poems on Oneness with God through Love, can be ordered through major online booksellers or the publisher AuthorHouse.