by Rev. Koshin Schomberg

Letting Go and Receiving Back

Originally it was natural for us to know the true fire [of Love] and where we came from.

Going and Returning

In discussing the significance of key events surrounding Rev. Master's past-life memory of a tiger, I abstracted from one very important part, which merits its own chapter in these Reflections.

At the end of the text accompanying Plates XXIII-XXIV (first edition, Plate XIII) of How to Grow a Lotus Blossom, Rev. Master describes her realization that a delusional element has entered into her love of the tiger. With great grief, she lets go of the tiger, gives it the Precepts, and does a Segaki ceremony for it. (Segaki means "Feeding the Hungry Ghosts." Segaki is a memorial ceremony in which scriptures emphasizing the Compassion at the heart of existence are recited. The Teaching is spiritual food for all that is starving for Truth (the "hungry ghost"). The merit of the ceremony is offered for the benefit of the deceased.)

After letting go of the tiger in this way, Rev. Master found that another step was needed: she needed to "accept the tiger back into me and not discard it." But how was this to be done?--She found the answer, which was to "open myself completely to the tiger whilst saying no to Mara." (In Buddhism, Mara is the personification of delusion.) She says, "Come, enter me, all that is good within this tiger, but anything that is not of the Eternal Lord must stay outside." There then follow events that I have discussed in Parts XXIX-XXXI of these Reflections.

Letting Go

All forms of existence have a birth, a life and a death. We think of birth, life and death as belonging exclusively to sentient beings, but in fact it is only the way in which birth, life and death occur in sentient beings that is unique to those forms of existence.

Rocks are formed in various ways, exist in those forms, and decay and pass out of existence. Atoms and their constituent particles come into existence, have a duration (in some cases, very long, in others very short), and at some point "die." Thoughts and feelings arise and pass in consciousness. And so on.

Birth, life and death constitutes a continual process of transformation. Death does not end this process: it initiates new beginnings. Rocks on a mountain are eroded by rain, wind, ice and the heat of the sun, breaking down into smaller rocks and then into tiny grains of sand or even smaller particles of clay. Eventually these little bits of matter may end up in sedimentary deposits at the bottom of a sea, forming new rocks. Subatomic particles smash into other particles and give rise to a shower of new particles. One thought leads to another thought; one state of feeling gives rise to another state of feeling. Living beings die, body and mind undergoing transformations that become the basis for new life.--And so we should add "rebirth" to the list: birth, life, death and rebirth.

However much we may love another person, an object, a state of affairs, a feeling--anything whatsoever--we cannot keep it from undergoing the natural processes of decay and death--and rebirth.

Rev. Master was given twenty-four hours of "oneness of love with my tiger." That was the "lifespan" of the experiencing of love in this way and at this time. But the Love of the Eternal is infinite: there is always more to It than we will experience in any one way and at any one time. And there was more to the tiger than Rev. Master could realize until further transformations happened: a spiritual rebirth was on the immediate horizon.

And so Rev. Master needed to let go of her beloved tiger, returning love to its Source. The grief that she experienced in doing this is the grief that we experience when we lose that which we love. Yet if we are not willing to lose it when it is time for it to go, we darken grief and hurt ourselves--and we may hurt others also. But it works boths ways, and if we are willing to let go when it is time to let go, we greatly benefit ourselves--and others. Rev. Master was willing to let go.

Receiving Back

At the time of letting go, Rev. Master did not know that something would be given back. Always we go forward into an unknown; always the greatest need of all needs is the need to look up and trust the Eternal.

In saying "No" to Mara, Rev. Master was expressing determination not to bring the despair of the tiger back to life in her present or future actions. Greed, hate and delusion have the Buddha Nature, but that does not mean that it is good to walk in a path that indulges greed, hate and delusion. Scorpions have the Buddha Nature, but that does not make me want to play with scorpions.

It became clear to Rev. Master after completely letting go, that she somehow needed to accept the tiger back into herself. It is so often the case that we give something up only to be be given it back. It is up to us whether we will willingly accept, and make wise use of, that which is being returned to us.

In accepting the tiger back into herself after saying "No" to Mara, Rev. Master recognized the innate purity of heart within the knot of spiritual need. This innate purity of heart derives directly from the Buddha Nature Itself. It is always present even within the greatest confusion and most horrific non-Preceptual action. Love may be thrown off its mark, yet love itself is always of the Eternal.

The Beneficiary of Inherited Merit

Together, the "No" to Mara and the accepting back of "all that is good within this tiger" constitute the choice to go on in the Path of the Precepts together with the karmic inheritance. And it is a good thing that Rev. Master made this choice. For in making it, she allowed the merit that had been locked up within the knot of spiritual need to manifest fully. Thus she became the beneficiary of the merit of another being's life, just as the spiritual need of that being was the beneficiary of her sympathy and faith.

Thus, the redemption of our karmic inheritance is made possible through our training, and we are the beneficiaries of the merit within our karmic inheritance. We give help and we receive help.--And now abstract from the "we" and the implied "them"--that is, abstract from all ideas of self and other-- and what is revealed is that the Help of the Eternal flows to all need, whatever its origins and whatever way it finds expression at a particular time and in a particular place. Who can fathom the compassion encompassed within this truth?

Whenever we act Preceptually, whenever we truly meditate, we give our body and mind to be the vehicle of the Eternal's activity of Compassion. How to Grow a Lotus Blossom clearly shows the attitude of mind and heart that makes it possible for this process to happen at the deepest level and it shows what the process looks like at the deepest level.


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