Monday, February 19, 2007


Buddhism has a kajillion icons to show you what you are, piece by piece.

This is Amoghasiddhi, one of the so-called transcendant Buddhas, whose Sanskrit name identifies him as "one who unerringly accomplishes the goal." Usually he is depicted holding up his right hand as in the picture above. In Buddhist iconography, this is the mudra of courage, abhaya. The icon links dilgence (unceasing effort) with courage. This rings true in my heart and feels deeply practical.

The very suggestion of "unerringly accomplishing the goal" suggests infinite repetition. It is complete, yet the process does not stop. One moment is complete, then the next, then the next. Again. And again. Only this.

To accept one's situation, see the relationship, and submit to one's duty moment after moment without ceasing - this requires profound diligence. To do that even one time a day is a good step for most of us. To let go of everything and show up completely for this moment goes against much of our conditioning. When I am feeling angry or jealous or manic, I can almost sense the blue smoke around my head, leaving me as sleepy as a drugged bee.

Confronted with that failure of effort, it is tempting to give up. Sometimes, the temptation to give up is very strong just in the act of sitting. My gaze is on the floor and suddenly this angry resistance, this soul-sick impatience, rises up and tries to pull me out of myself. Formal practice is stupid; people are stupid; sangha is worthless; screw it - have fun and run the clock out.

Thus one turns away from the light. When it feels like it might be easier to stop giving a fuck, this is fear. When you feel like a loser who will never get it right, this is anger. Fear and anger are unconscious ways of using your strength; you can use it in other ways, too - if you want.

What's another choice? Pick yourself up, note your mistake, and try again. The new match begins right now. Really: right now.

The legend says that this abhaya mudra is the gesture made by the historical Buddha just after seeing the morning star and attaining enlightenment.

You could try it out. Take a few breaths and imitate the gesture: raise your right hand to shoulder-level, extend the fingers, palm out.

Hands are sensitive - that's why they can be so expressive. Your hands and the way you use them express you in way that strains the limits of language. Your hands perceive. It moves me that the gesture for "courage" shows the hand so open: palm outward, receiving. It even looks like a wave: courage as a greeting.
...and not so different from Jesus's mudra of benediction, did you notice?
Even if you have no interest in Buddhist art whatsoever, you'll understand that if you practice meditation for a while: it does take courage to receive the world. And sometimes the hardest thing is to stop beating ourselves up or beating others up, and just put everything down and receive what appears, from the center of our being.
This does not mean letting people walk all over you.

It does not mean being quiet about injustice.

It means quietly doing what is necessary, dropping it off, and responding to the next moment without a trace.

Off you go! When you keep trying, stumbling, and faithfully trying again for 5, 10, 20 years - a widening perspective on courage and diligence appears. You can't practice forgiving yourself for that long without also forgiving the world.

Amoghasiddhi's job is to take envy and jealousy and transmute it into wisdom. (Maybe that's why the Tibetans paint him green?) With unceasing effort, moment after moment. This goes beyond forgiveness and impatience: it takes the "negative" substance and sees it as an ingredient for a nourishing meal.

Great diligence is the willingness to shuck everything and start again from zero. That is the paramita of dilgence or unceasing effort (virya). It is one aspect of what you truly are.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Beautiful, thank you for sharing.