During a recent discussion with a Dhamma Brother who is currently incarcerated, I mentioned to him that my first Buddha was my Mother. He has since mailed me a letter stating that he was so moved by that, and realized that his Mother was his first Buddha as well.
But while this clarity about my Mom has been obvious to me for a very long time now, it was much later in my practice that I discovered my secret Buddha. And this actually turned out to be my Father.
You see, my Mom and Dad divorced when I was about ten years old. My Dad was an alcoholic and became very distant from me. He then got sober, married another woman, and we regained an on-and-off relationship that was tenuous at best, for the rest of his life.
I carried a great deal of ill-will toward my Dad even long after his death. Always feeling that he was not the Father that he should have been to me. I had so many expectations and disappointments because he did not fill the role as I thought he should. And through my practice it became abundantly clear that I was the one suffering throughout the years and even after his passing.
My Dad had not done this to me, I had done this to myself. And all the while, I was missing so many wonderful lessons that he was offering me.
My Dad, more than anyone else I have ever known, accepted life and all other people with complete equanimity. Everyone liked my Dad. He was funny, easy-going, and completely non-judgmental. And a powerful lesson that he always taught me by example was to not attach to stories. If you were sick, he was sorry that you were sick, but he moved on immediately. Never feeling a need to dwell on that which could not be controlled. It was life, and he understood that things happen in this life.
I observed him live this personally in his life as he dealt with severe rheumatoid arthritis, then emphysema, then melanoma that cause a huge chunk to be removed from his nose. None of which ever causing him to complain or be sad. He was exuberantly happy to have this life, exactly as it is.
My Dad was indeed my secret Buddha. And I wonder how many of you have a secret Buddha as well. Perhaps you know them now or perhaps they have died. If you discovered them already, then I encourage you to pay great attention for the beautiful gift they offer you. And if you have not yet revealed themselves to you, then I suggest you open your heart and your mind. There is so much more for all of us to see once we have a heart filled with compassion and acceptance.
“I tell you, monks, there are two people who are not easy to repay. Which two? Your mother & father. Even if you were to carry your mother on one shoulder & your father on the other shoulder for 100 years, and were to look after them by anointing, massaging, bathing, & rubbing their limbs, and they were to defecate & urinate right there [on your shoulders], you would not in that way pay or repay your parents.”