Monday, November 2, 2009

So You Want to be a Bodhisattva, eh?

This post, which was just recommended by Barry over at Ox Herding, struck a chord with me for many reasons. One is that the Xinxinming, the dharma poem I have been writing about for awhile now, has equanimity as a driving force behind its words.

I have to say I'm rather attached to remaining, or appearing calm and "with it," under difficult circumstances. The same seems to be true for the author of the post. On trying to work with all that comes up during visits with her ailing, elderly mother in the nursing home, the author writes:

The practice of equanimity failed me over and over as I watched the steadiness I gained on the cushion fracture and words snarl out fueled by long-buried childhood wounds. Every encounter left me raw and bleeding, angered by the weakness of my practice and determined that there was some space to be inserted between the pain her words re-ignited and the protective rage that flashed. I told a friend one day, “I can last about 3 hours, then I lose it! And I hate myself for days after.” Three hours. She was flabbergasted. “Three hours? You need to lose sooner than three hours.”

I've felt this struggle myself many times. I hit a wall, start getting pissed or frustrated or simply try to withdraw from the situation, and then feel bad about it afterward. Not always, and probably less than in the past. But still enough to notice it's not a rarity in my life.

The post author brings up Jizo and other Bodhisattva figures - these wonderful representations of the manifestation of the most loving, most compassionate qualities in the world. I think it's a major challenge in our practice to be able to accept exactly where we are, and not gravitate to the binary of Bodhisattva or complete failure. How does one both hold an aspiration to be a Jizo in the world, and also to stay completely present with all that is actually happening, regardless of how un-Bodhisattva-like it is?


spldbch said...

I can honestly say that I have no illusions of becoming "enlightened" and doubt very seriously that I will ever attain complete equanimity in all situations. In some ways this is a good thing because I am pleased with whatever little progress I make. Each time I handle a situation calmly or am able to enjoy something immensely because I am completely present I feel like I have been successful.

Nathan said...

"Each time I handle a situation calmly or am able to enjoy something immensely because I am completely present I feel like I have been successful." That may just be enlightenment popping it's head out. I think most of us, myself included, get hung up on some future image of "being enlightened." But I don't think that's it. Enlightenment is more dynamic than some future, nearly impossible state to reach.