Yesterdays dhamma talk at the Blue Lotus Buddhist Temple referred to the Lotus flower and how it relates to our practice. And while I have read, heard and studied this analogy before, this talk made me want to revisit this.
One fascinating discovery I see, is that our minds can become purified and awakened while still rooted in the mud and murky waters. There is no need to try to separate from the realities of the physical existence. And I think too often, we incorrectly think that our determination should be to escape or move away from the difficulties of this life. When in fact, is it the roots of our existence that support our potential for growth, then reaches out of the water with purity and beauty. And we each have this quality within us. This is what the Mahayana tradition refers to as bodhicitta. The term bodhicitta in its most complete sense would combine both: the arising of spontaneous and limitless compassion for all sentient beings, and the falling away of the attachment to the illusion of an inherently existent self. It is the awakening of our mind, out of the mud and into the light.
The wonderful part of this realization, is that I see the “mud” in our lives in not something to escape from but to appreciate. This is our foundation for developing the Four Immeasurables.
Metta: Develop thoughts of love and good will, hoping for your own happiness and that of others. This is like a fortress wall or a cardinal point.
Karuna: Develop thoughts of compassion toward yourself and others, aiming at helping yourself and others gain release from all forms of suffering and pain. This is another wall or cardinal point.
Mudita: Develop thoughts of appreciation, taking delight in the happiness you experience and in that experienced by others. This is another fortress wall or cardinal point.
Upekkha: Develop equanimity, keeping your mind unruffled when your activities or those of others go astray or lead to trouble in ways that are beyond your power to help. Keep watch over your mind to prevent it from being upset or affected in any way. This doesn’t mean being cold or hard-hearted. If you can be of help, you should offer what help you can. Develop indifference only in those cases that are beyond help.
And for these sublime attitudes to be fully developed, they must pervade our thoughts, words, and actions (deeds). A reminder that I give myself at the beginning and ending of each meditation practice.
And regardless of what tradition, this all makes perfect sense to me. And it clearly explains to me that liberation is not escape at all, but the presence and acceptance of this life. Heck, even the Buddha was subject to physical pain until he died and became free of the limits we have in this physical body.
We are each bound to this World by our physical bodies and limitations, but our minds can rise above the murky waters and be liberated. Benefitting the self and all other beings, we become the fully blossomed Lotus.
And I suppose this should have been clear to me all along, but it has only just now finally clicked for me. I see that each difficulty and struggle that we encounter is simply the foundation for our practice, our awakening. And more importantly, we could not achieve it without these roots.
All of this is not to say that I now have found a way to enjoy suffering, but I do see that it is all beneficial, unavoidable and quite often optional. And with proper cultivation, gentle determination, and lots of patience, I will only be limited by my own resistance to all that is natural.
May you be well, happy and peaceful.