by Rev. Koshin Schomberg

A Paradigm of Conversion

This tiny little room, our body, is the treasurehouse of the Relics of the Buddha;
It is as small as a mustard seed on Mount Sumeru.
Now it is nearly purified enough to become one with the Unborn.
Once body and mind drop away you will know
That there is a Place to which the Water flows back.

Sharing the Wealth

To the Eternal, all of existence is part of Itself. It will make the best use of every part of Itself for the good of all that is of Itself. Therefore, there simply is no such thing as enlightenment that can be limited to one individual: the enlightenment of one individual is meant to benefit all--and, in fact, does benefit all.

The great kensho experienced by Rev. Master Jiyu-Kennett in 1976-77, and described in How to Grow a Lotus Blossom, was like the eruption of a great spiritual volcano. Some of the merit that flooded into the world from this eruption manifested in the form of Teaching remarkable for its depth, clarity, and practical applicability. This Teaching is for any and all who wish to study It, treasure It, and put It into practice. Rev. Master Jiyu-Kennett could no more keep this treasure of Teaching to herself than the moon could wander off on its own path and leave earth's gravitational field behind.

In Parts XXIX and XXX of these Reflections, I have discussed the "spiritual big bang" of conversion and awakening that lies at the heart of How to Grow a Lotus Blossom. Throughout these Reflections, I have emphasized that even the most seemingly esoteric spiritual experiences described in How to Grow a Lotus Blossom are the very deep experiencing of processes that are experienced by everyone who truly trains in meditation and the Precepts. Since this is so, the deepest experience sheds light on the meaning of spiritual experience at all levels, and on the process of training/enlightenment itself. With this in mind, I would like to walk through the stages of the "spiritual big bang" again, relating each stage to ordinary daily training in meditation and the Precepts.

Three Teachings of a Tiger

At the very beginning of her retreat, Rev. Master chose to turn within in meditation rather than taking refuge in external things that would only dissolve away and leave her in despair. This led very quickly to the complete letting go of externals and "holding fast to the Lord of the House" in pure meditation, which established the right spiritual focus for all that followed: "Nothing matters: mindfulness is all."

What followed was the unscrolling of Rev. Master's karmic inheritance, beginning with this lifetime and then seamlessly going back through her past-life inheritance. In this process, Rev. Master found in detail how beings in her karmic stream had ended up in despair. This culminated in the memory of the life of a tiger that was captured by men and caged. In its terrible despair it bashed its head again and again into the bars of the cage until it had a stroke and its back legs were paralyzed.

This deep knot of spiritual pain and confusion was able to come fully to the surface of consciousness to receive help because Rev. Master consciously chose not to go down a path of despair. This shows a universal truth of training/enlightenment: Before spiritual need can be helped by the Love and Wisdom of the Eternal, it has to be contained within the Precepts; if we let spiritual need--greed, hate and delusion--call the shots, desperation, longing and confusion will proliferate.

It is often the case that that which man has injured needs the love of man in order to heal. Rev. Master says to the tiger, "I love you so very much; more than anything I have ever loved in my entire life."--Here Rev. Master is the willing vessel of Love to the spiritual need inherited from a being who died in pain and confusion.

This shows another universal truth of training/enlightenment: When we meditate truly, we allow the Love of the Eternal to flow to every part of our being--including the most pained, confused and ugly parts. When we sit still with an open heart in the midst of fear, grief, despair, desire, anger, doubt--anything and everything that can arise--we do the same essential spiritual act that Rev. Master did when she loved the suffering tiger. It does not matter that it may not feel as if we are loving anything at all; it does not matter that we may have no intellectual clarity, no insight, no understanding about what is happening within us. All that matters is that we do the meditation and trust the Eternal to do the work within our heart.

So much pain and confusion, so much thrashing about in lifetime after lifetime, comes from a moment of looking down. As Rev. Master says (again, addressing the knot of spiritual need inherited from the tiger), "For a moment you doubted your true nature long ago and so caused the karmic memory that lies within me. We will never doubt again and so the time of wandering [in lifetimes of pain and confusion] is over, our cage [of ignorance] has disappeared."

This is the most important lesson of all: Look up, not down!

Vanishing Within the Hara

In How to Grow a Lotus Blossom, the vanishing of the tiger within the hara initiates the "spiritual big bang."

Every time we sit down to meditate with a troubled mind and a tense body and get up thirty minutes later with a peaceful mind and a relaxed body we experience the dissolving of the knot of pain and confusion within the hara. It may be that there are extended periods within which we experience no such relief. During such times (which can go on in some cases for months or even years) one has to fly on faith--and if one cannot fly, then walk; and if one cannot walk, then crawl. Eventually, every obstacle will dissolve if we will but continue our training in meditation and the Precepts.

Note that the dissolving of a knot, or jangle, of spiritual need happens in the hara, not in the head. We will not solve the koan by running around in our heads about it. Within the "hall of shadows" of the hara--the stillness of meditation, which is really the stillness of the Buddha Nature Itself--the Eternal effortlessly does that which we can never accomplish through our own efforts alone.

The Pearl of Original Enlightenment

"There is nothing from the first."--This enigmatic-sounding statement explains the appearance of the pearl of Original Enlightenment within the hara, that is, within the stillness of meditation.

"There is nothing from the first" means that in reality there never was anything separate from our wonderful True Nature. Therefore, that which believed itself to be separate from the Love of the Eternal was simply mistaken. Under the influence of this ignorance, beings do terrible things to themselves and to others, yet always they are simply mistaken in their ignorance. At the heart of this simple mistake is love that has lost sight of its Source. Yet love that is lost in ignorance was, is and always will be entirely of the Eternal. This is the pearl of Original Enlightenment.

What a wonderful day it is when the knot of pain and confusion dissolves and That which was always at its heart is revealed--the Immaculacy of Nothingness, the Immaculacy of our wonderful True Nature!

This pearl of Original Enlightenment is within each of us. No matter how far we may wander in confusion and pain, we carry the pearl with us and within us. How could Love ever abandon us when It is always within us?

Every time we sit down to meditate in spiritual darkness and rise up thirty minutes later with a brighter and lighter heart, we experience the pearl of Original Enlightenment.

The Buddha Within

In How to Grow a Lotus Blossom, Rev. Master describes the way in which the pearl, or seed, of Enlightenment transforms into a tiny golden Buddha sitting within the shadowy hall of the hara--within the stillness of meditation.

This golden Buddha represents our own wonderful True Nature--which is the True Nature of all the beings in our stream of karma, all spiritual need, all existence.

What does this mean in practice?--It means that at one moment I can treasure and take refuge in the Buddha Nature, and at another moment I can ignore It: it is my choice. It means that one being can awaken to the Buddha Nature while another sinks into deeper ignorance and confusion. In other words, the Oneness of existence does not force Itself upon us: All is One and All is Different. Our True Nature is in no way separate from the Eternal; it is not a soul or ego; it is not "mine" or "yours."--And it manifests as the True Nature of me and of you, of this being and of that being. It is One and It manifests within all difference.

If I am free to ignore the Buddha Nature, I am equally free to take refuge in It. If I can blind myself to It through wilful actions of thought, speech and body, I can also awaken to It through Preceptual training that brings actions of thought, speech and body into alignment with It. If all beings except one turn their back upon the Buddha Nature and walk in paths of confusion, that cannot stop that one being from taking refuge in its True Nature. If all beings except one choose to walk in the Way of Ancient Buddhas, that cannot stop that one being from walking in a path of confusion.

Every time we turn within, looking to our own True Heart for help and guidance, we take refuge in the golden Buddha within the hara.

The Circulation

After the golden Buddha appears within the hara, It then rises up the back to the crown of the head, pauses at the crown of the head, moves to the center of the forehead and leaves an imprint of itself there, and then moves back down the front of the body to the hara. Then it sits within the hara in golden light.

The rising up from the hara: This is the upward movement of the Water of the Spirit--the stream of upward-flowing Love. This upward-flowing is greatly strengthened when we look up spiritually, for when we look up spiritually we are choosing upward-flowing Love instead of downward-sinking despair. When we offer everything to the Eternal in pure meditation, we are offering everything into the stream of upward-flowing Love.

The return to the hara: This is the return movement of the Water of the Spirit to the well, or reservoir, of the hara--the stream of return-flowing Love and Wisdom. This return-flowing is greatly strengthened when we turn within in meditation, for when we turn within in meditation, we are choosing return-flowing (or inward-flowing) Love and Wisdom rather than outward-seeking greed. When we listen within stillness, we are listening within the stream of return-flowing Love and Wisdom.

Pausing at the crown of the head: Opening to the Love of the Eternal. When we meditate with our heart open to our wonderful True Nature in simple, childlike faith, we become an open pipe through which spiritual need can find its way to the Eternal's Help. Never doubt the merit of a moment of true meditation!

Pausing at the center of the forehead and leaving an imprint: Opening to the Wisdom of the Eternal. When we meditate with our heart open to the Teaching of our wonderful True Nature, we allow It to help and guide us. We take the Teaching in at a much deeper level than that of the intellect. It is a mistake to think that training and enlightenment always provide intellectual clarity: sometimes clarity is there; sometimes it is not; sometimes it is good that clarity is there; sometimes it is good that clarity is completely absent. The "blood and bones" certainty that the Eternal is is worth more than all the intellectual knowledge in the world, and no amount of intellectual clarity will take its place.

Truth Beyond Words

As is so often the case in these Reflections, in writing the above I am very conscious of the limits of words to convey the meaning of that which, in the end, we must experience for ourselves. I am also very conscious of the limits of my own experience and understanding. I know that I have only ever seen the "tip of the iceberg" of deeper spirituality. Above all, I am reminded again of the treasure of Teaching embodied in How to Grow a Lotus Blossom, and my heart bows in gratitude to the great-hearted woman who shared her experiences with the world through this book.


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