Sunday, December 17, 2006

My Head Will Split Open

A cracked rendition of the story of Kwan Seum Bosal, who had a thousand heads and a thousand arms.

Word has it that Kwan Seum Bosal is the offspring of Ami Ta Bul, the Buddha of Boundless Radiance. She was born from a ray of light that shone from his right eye. Don't ask. The Buddhas all have their own unique things, and in the legends even the Buddhas themselves don't completely understand what's going on. That's one aspect of Buddhist lore that I have always loved: the heavens will rain flower petals and the Buddhas think, "WTF??"

Anyway, Kwan Seum Bosal is said to have attained complete awakening of her being, and her unity with the entire world, through the gate of hearing. Even her name is a reminder about deep listening:

Kwan = perceive
Se = world
Um = sound

She became known as the bodhisattva who hears the cries of the world. So she said to papa: "Nothing I hear is inside me or outside me, I am completely involved here, and rather than dissolve into the jacuzzi jets of Nirvana, I will stay here until every last being is at peace."
And she made an interesting vow: "If I do not accomplish my vow to save all beings from their suffering, my head will split open like a coconut."

So she went to work and there is a long, long story about her trying to clean up the various hells and deal with human suffering, and how the suffering kind of piled in around the sides no matter how she dug, until she felt overwhelmed (and perhaps rather sick of people, to boot), and then she QUIT.


Papa Buddha, Ami Ta Bul, had something to say about that.

He remembered that vow about the coconut, and he immediately administered tough love on his offspring. KA-POW! He hit Kwan Seum Bosal on the head and her head split open.

Kwan Seum Bosal said, "Great. Now I have a splitting headache."

Ami Ta Bul said, "I can take care of that for you. You can pass into Nirvana and not feel the pain anymore. Is that enough?"

"No, it's not enough," said the offspring. "The headache is a wake-up call. My head isn't feeling good, but the world-pain is worse. I must go back to work."

Papa said this was fine. Then he hit his offspring on the head a few more times. (Maybe you parents understand this impulse.) Every time he hit, a brand new head appeared until there were a thousand heads, a thousand sets of eyes. Second from the top was the head of the frightening Lord of Death - because some people need the reminder. And at the very top, Ami Ta Bul put his own head just to keep an eye on things.

Then Kwan Seum Bosal sprouted arms. A thousand arms, each equipped to hold different things. In the center of each palm was an eye - hence the "thousand hands and eyes" sutra chanted at Zen Center every day.

It is 8:00 am as I write this and I have somewhere to be so this story must end abruptly, but of course it hasn't ended. The headache continues to stream like a shaft of light from Amitabha's eye, giving birth to the one who awakens to our condition, hears the cries of the world, and automatically reaches out: "How can I help...?"

That's you, and I hope you have a nice day.

1 comment:

Lorianne said...

Oh, but you left out my favorite part of the "thousand hands & eyes" part. As soon as KSB sees suffering in the world, already there's a hand there to help.

She doesn't just hear the cries of the world, apparently.