by Rev. Koshin Schomberg

The Divine Medicine

Both the self and the True Heart have a healing function.

The Dharma Refuge

The Sanskrit word dharma (Pali: dhamma) is a word rich in meaning. It can be translated into English as "truth" or "law." In Buddhism, "Dharma" (with a capital "D") designates the Teaching that flowed forth from the Buddha's Enlightenment, and that shows the Way to the cessation of suffering.

The Zen masters who emphasized that the Buddha Refuge is, in Its deepest meaning, the refuge of our own Buddha Nature also emphasized that the Dharma Refuge is, in Its deepest meaning, the Teaching that comes from the Buddha Nature. Thus, just as Rev. Master sometimes expressed the First Refuge as "I take refuge in the Eternal," so she sometimes expressed the Second Refuge--the Dharma Refuge--as "I take refuge in That which the Eternal teaches."

The Teaching that comes from the Eternal always addresses need. In the widest sense, the Dharma is all the Help that flows from the Eternal to our need. Thus, another way of expressing the Second of the Three Refuges is, "I take refuge in the Help of the Eternal."

Taking Refuge through Bowing

We take refuge because of need, and deep need cannot afford to be fussy about the form taken by that which comes to its aid. Therefore, if we wish to open mind and heart to the Help of the Eternal, we cannot find a better training principle than the one discovered by Rev. Master in the first months of her training as a monk: "I must take everything that happens as being for my good."

Would we ever learn anything of any use to ourselves or anyone else if life slavishly catered to our hopes, desires, expectations and demands?--There is no better teacher than the disappointment that exposes the causes of suffering within ourselves. But we will not recognise that teacher if we do not adopt an accepting and upward-looking attitude of mind. Fault-finding--complaining--turns one into a blind man who walks through a palace full of treasures while being convinced that he is in a slum.

Bowing helps. We can bow with our whole body; and we can bow just with our mind and heart. But we will learn how to bow with mind and heart much more easily and quickly if we practice bowing with our body.

Just as we can say, "I want to hurt you" with a clenched fist, so we can say, "I offer everything into Your hands" to the Eternal with our whole body when we raise, and then lower, our open hands--palms turned upwards--in a full bow. This offering must not be confused with attempting to throw something away. When we try to get rid of the painful thought or feeling, the cause of suffering is strengthened: self cannot solve the problem of self. When we offer, we make room for the Eternal to help us in whatever way is in our genuine best interest--which is fully known to the Eternal, but not to us.


The Dharma is the "Medicine that cures all suffering."

The Eternal is the Master Medicine-Maker and can make healing medicine out of even the most bitter and poisonous herbs. Thus, when worked upon by the Compassion and Wisdom of the Eternal, the hardest knots of confusion and pain in our karmic inheritance produce the Divine Medicine. That is to say, not only are these karmic jangles helped, but the merit that was buried within them is released. This merit can manifest in many ways--in understanding, for example, or sympathy, or the refusal to go down a path of delusion. Thus, that which has received help becomes a vessel of the Help of the Eternal. This is part of what is meant by "the healing function of self."

There are two great complementary aspects of the Divine Medicine: Love and Wisdom. The two aspects are always present, though frequently one is more evident than the other. Thus, to go to the Dharma for refuge at the deepest level is to open body, mind and heart to the healing Love and enlightening Wisdom of the Eternal.

One and Many

The Truth is never in opposition to Itself. It is impossible that the Dharma as comprehended by Shakyamuni Buddha could be fundamentally different from, or opposed to, the Dharma as comprehended by Bodhidharma, or that either of these could be fundamentally different from, or opposed to, the Dharma as experienced by Rev. Master in her great kensho in 1976-77. And everyone who realizes the Truth experiences and expresses It in a unique way: All is One and All is Different. Thus the same Truth is found and affirmed down through the centuries, and It is continually manifesting in new forms in accordance with the needs of beings.

Rev. Master often said, "The real Truth does not insist on truth." It is impossible to have an argument about the real Truth: the very fact that someone wishes to argue means that he is ignoring the real Truth. Arguments about religious doctrines and practices would cease altogether if we were to limit ourselves to talking about what we have found to be helpful in our own experience and true for ourselves.

In this little essay, I have spoken of the Dharma as "Teaching," as "Help," as "Medicine," and as "Truth." It is the Teaching that flowed forth from the Buddha's Enlightenment and the Teaching that flows forth from our own Buddha Nature; It is the Help that the Eternal provides in all need; It is the Divine Medicine that cures all suffering; and It is the Truth of the Way to re-harmonize with our wonderful True Nature that Buddhas Transmit to Buddhas and Ancestors Transmit to Ancestors.


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