Day 7 – Bodhi Season 2017 – Enso

Enso Bodhi Day Cookie
Enso Bodhisattva – Bodhi Day 2017.

Today, December 24, Christmas Eve, is day 7 of 7 of the Lunar Bodhi Season of 2017, which began December 18 with the 12th New moon of 2017. Tomorrow, December 25, 2017 is Christmas and for this year, it is also Bodhi Day.

The 7th and last of the Bodhisattvas to go into the world providing guidance is the Bodhisattva of the Enso. The red circular shape, known as an enso, represents the Path to Perfection. But notice the gap – that signifies there is always some way remaining to go.

Additionally, the circular shape of the enso signifies that the Path to Perfection is an iterative process, cyclical. For Buddhist/Hindu traditions, this means there is a cycle of birth, death, rebirth – reincarnation. In fact, for Buddhists, the reason for enlightenment is to get out of that endless cycle, graduate from Universal High School (Earthly life) to Universal College. Supposedly, we keep coming back because we just can’t seem to get it right, although we hopefully make progress with each iteration.

But Buddha taught that it is possible to be enlightened in this life, no matter what your circumstances. The goal is the elimination of Dukkha and the method is based on seeing the Universe as a One Infinity, not in the fragmented, symbolic way our Earthly animal brains see it. Note too that whether or not there is reincarnation, or anything supernatural, is irrelevant to what I’ve been writing about.

However, even if we can gain this Enlightenment in one life, it is still an iterative process, but iterations in just our one lifetime, not over many lifetimes. Meaning, we normally live many mini-lives within our lifetime. It follows a pattern of pure learning at first, over time the ratio of learning to doing what we’ve learned shifts as we master our skill until we are hardly learning, we may then teach what we’ve learned, the rug is pulled out from under you or maybe you’re so bored with it, and you reinvent yourself. With each iteration, there are many things that are the same, but look different from the perspective of maturity:

“A truly great book should be read in youth, again in maturity and once more in old age, as a fine building should be seen by morning light, at noon and by moonlight.” – Robertson Davies

There are at least four times in my life, four iterations, where I “felt” like I was enlightened. The first time was many years ago after my father died battling cancer. That is quite a story in itself, but for the purposes here, it’s enough to say that “enlightenment” seemed to be a result of experiencing something so stressful that it seems like my brain “blue-screened” and rebooted. For about a year nothing bothered me, and yet I was very productive at work.

The next two happened about a decade later and another decade later, and lasted for progressively shorter periods, 3 months and 1 month, respectively. Both were also related to great stress, but stress from work. However, it’s important to remember that such temporary enlightenments can be triggered by positive things such as through extraordinary kindness or meditation. Unless we live in a cave, we’ve all had these temporary enlightenments a few times in our lives. So we know how it feels to be at true peace.

I know now that even though my brain spontaneously “emptied my cup” when it “blue-screened”, there were still a few things I clung to that over the year of that first enlightenment that yanked the clings it was connected to and what it was connected to and so forth back on board. Please note that these temporary enlightenments slowly crumble through accumulation of positive slippery slopes into back into bedazzlements (your own “fun” addictions) as well as the negative crap that can accumulate during the normal course of daily life.

I want to clarify that by “enlightened”, it has nothing to do with my day to day mood. Enlightenment doesn’t necessarily equal “happy”, nor are there associated magical powers. I was 100% resigned to whatever life presented, “good” or “bad”, and I was also highly productive in my “art”. It’s a state that is completely unrelated to the happiness of being at Yellowstone on vacation or the turmoil of fire drills during the implementation to production stage of a project.

So those first three enlightenments were the result of being pushed so far that I went to this nice place beyond sad, mad, even glad. It’s something that happened spontaneously. I had no idea how I got it and didn’t even really think about how I’d keep it. This fourth time, which started about two months ago, is different. This time I had guides, Rubber Ducky and Fishnu. This time, the enlightenment was built methodically, by first emptying my cup … and there is a maintenance plan, which are the things I’ve written about over past few weeks, particularly these past seven days.

But I know this fourth iteration would not have worked had I not gone through those prior iterations. I’ve “heard” what Rubber Ducky and Fishnu taught me many times before, going back to my teens. Each time I thought I understood what I was taught, only to be shocked at what I missed as I heard it again a decade later, and another decade later, and another.

Our brains hear what it wants to hear. It is very good at taking only what plugs neatly into the models of our head. It’s like on Seinfeld when Jerry gave his dad, Morty, a “handheld computer” (this was back in the 1990s) and couldn’t make out what it was. When he was told it could calculate tips he readily labeled it, “It’s a tip calculator!” We cling dearly to those models, our skill, business plans, “insights”, beliefs that we fought so hard to gain. We resist rocking the boat where we risk realizing what we thought we understood so well may not be the case. And, because the world is constantly changing, what we “know” in our brains is indeed probably no longer valid. So if I need to distill down the “one most important thing” for this Twitter culture, it’s to empty your head and really listen.

Switching to Bodhi Day tomorrow, think about this. We’ve seen videos of Buddhist priests pointing to this and that and saying this is Buddha, that is Buddha. You’ll then point to dog shit near you and facetiously ask, “Is that Buddha too?” The Buddhist priest tries to cut to the chase waving his hands around to encompass everything around you, “Everything is Buddha.” To which your symbolic thinking brain then replies, “The asshole who tailgated me here? He’s Buddha too? Even me, I’m Buddha? Hey Everyone! I’m Buddha!”

If the Buddhist priest were not a Buddhist priest, she may be tempted to blurt out, “Now, what part of the word, ‘everything’, don’t you understand?!” Maybe we struggle because “Buddha” registers in our symbolic brains as just the name of the very skinny depiction of Siddhartha Gautama or that big-bellied laughing guy.

Without getting into a long-winded thesis of the difficulty of translating some Eastern concepts into English, the salient point is that everything is in reality part of an indivisible One, the case I’ve been laying out these past seven days. It’s just our symbolic-thinking brains that has these delusions of separate objects, useful for competing with lions, tigers, bears, and other humans. Our brain was designed for Life on Earth and commandeered to design things, which was not the “intent of the original architecture” – like making HR software into a sales-tracking system.

Through enlightenment, we don’t become a Buddha … we are already Buddha. It’s just our “not as smart as it thinks” brain that tells us otherwise. Enlightenment turns on the light to see that we’re an inseparable part of an indivisible Infinity. The kaleidoscope of Ying and Yang processes of the Universe are going on right here right now and we’re as integrated into and inseparable from the whole thing as anything we can and cannot imagine. With Right Intent (the 2nd item of the Eightfold Path), that is, YOU GOTTA WANT IT, that light can be switched on. It’s only our sentient, symbolic and judging brains that may not like what is going on and struggles to get away or control what is. And that’s Dukkha.

That “YOU GOTTA WANT IT” thing is what Bodhi Day is about. Siddhartha Gautama struggled for years to understand “the meaning of life”. He learned from many teachers, went to great extremes, particularly extreme asceticism, thinking that transcending great physical suffering will take him to that state beyond this world. Instead he ended up emaciated and near death. A girl from the village he happened to be at fed him a meal of rice and milk, which invigorated him to make his final big push. According to Fishnu, who was there watching, told me that in so many words Siddhartha said, “I will sit here under this f-ing tree until I finally f-ing get this!!! Whatever it takes!!” He REALLY wanted it. (BTW, Fishnu says “f-ing” is close enough as the Pali translation is too long.)

For seven days (according to Fishnu), he sat under that tree in meditation. For all that time, his brain put up a huge fight against being emptied, as would any regime about to be replaced. When that much resistance is put up, you know you’re onto something! On the morning of the eighth day, his brain weary from the battle, asked, “OK, ok, Who do you believe?” Fishnu says, Siddhartha touched the ground, the Earth, with his right hand signifying it is the Universe of the One he believes.

With that, here is the “Great Blue Heron Sutra”, given to me by Rubber Ducky, which tomorrow morning at sunrise, you should recite 56 times before sunrise:

[1] Infinity is all that is real, it is indivisible, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
[2] Dukkha results from the interference of our intent to treat Phenomena as if it is separate from the Infinity. We remove Dukkha by following the path towards perfectly blending in with the Universe with 100% acceptance of what Is.
[3] The Universe is a complex system and beyond the total control of anything. I will walk the path with no expectations. “Is that So?”, I will say at every turn.
[4] The reality of forms that we believe in is just a model of the world in our brains. It is a pitifully inadequate model as the only adequate model is the One itself. Our reality of forms is a delusion.
[5] Keep your mind empty, never judgmental, never opinionated, expect nothing.
[6] My only intent is to perfect my focus on the Now, so that I may be of value.
[7] We walk the path to see that every thing is already Buddha because every thing is indivisible from the One.

Keep Calm, Merry On!
Reverend Dukkha Hanamoku
Ordained Zen Priest of the Order of the Common Area Ponds

Links to each of the Bodhi Season 2017 days: