HOW TO GROW A LOTUS BLOSSOM: Reflections in a Disciple's Life

by Rev. Koshin Schomberg

Section XIII
The House of Precious Jewels

When you reach the gate of the boundless, primordial Unborn you will understand why It withdrew Its Source.
When you understand that the Eternal is above all things, you will understand why It conceals Its Light.
When you see the Buddha Nature within a snail and the Treasurehouse within a stone,
Then you will understand that our house is made of precious jewels.


Love and Loss

For four months I walked through the dark plain of love and loss. Again and again I would wonder at the seemingly limitless amount of grief that is stored in body and mind.

And I did not have to go looking for the cause of so much sorrow. As my karmic history, both from this lifetime and from my past-life inheritance, unscrolled before me, I saw exemplified again and again the theme of love and loss. Again and again, in different ways, I was shown that the loss that beings believe to be so real and final is not the true reality. Again and again I would be drawn to that Place in which there is no self and other, no loss and gain, no coming and going. Excerpts from my diary show something of this. (The following excerpts are in chronological order, but all were written on different days. Sometimes days or weeks separate one excerpt from the next.)

I meditate, floating out into a Great Stillness. I give myself to It. In Its depth there is a sense of Great Holiness. "Koshin" is just a little piece of flotsam drifting in this vastness. . . . Later I again float out into the deep stillness of meditation. Enlightenment and delusion, gain and loss--these things do not matter. It is enough to know the Lord of the House.

Now deep, quiet gratitude welled up: He had never deserted me. He had been with me all the time. Then I was seeing the Immaculacy of it all: one may dress Immaculacy in shabby clothes and It is still Immaculacy. . . . The Love of the Eternal seemed a Great Circle. Within the Great Circle is the little circle of human love. This Love--both Divine and human--is always with us. The important thing is to avoid being wilful with It. When we act out of ignorance--grasping and pushing away--we convince ourselves that we are far from It. In fact, It is all of each of us. I know this now in a way that I have never known. I pray that I may train myself in being true to this understanding.

The past lives that I have experienced in the last few months were all seen to be within the Love of the Eternal--and I felt love for each of them. Everything was seen and felt to be Immaculate. People--beings--do the best they can under difficult circumstances. They become confused and lose sight of their True Refuge. But It never abandons them, nor does It cease to work for their good. The fact that the longing and pain in each of these lives is able to find a resolution in this present human life through spiritual training is proof enough of the Infinite Compassion of the Unborn.

The Past-Life Inheritance

During this retreat, the darkest, most anguished aspects of my karmic inheritance came to the surface. Some of it was from this present life, but most was from the past-life inheritance. Some of these people--and one animal--were victims. Some were perpetrators. All needed to know the Love of the Eternal. And some had a special need for human compassion, sympathy and, in a few cases, forgiveness.

Some of these memories were rather vague and indistinct. In these cases, I always allow for the fact that I may be mistaken about what I think I am remembering. This is no different from the way my memory functions with regard to many events in this present life. But a number of past-life memories came up vividly and intensely, and I think of these as the "key" past lives. I believe that these particularly vivid memories accompany the greatest spiritual need. And each of these past lives conveys particularly important teaching.

The darkest of all the memories of this time was of a young man who had murdered and then commited suicide. My first past-life memory many years before had been of his horror at what he had done in murdering another person. Now I experienced the despair that led to his suicide. I had never had suicidal thoughts and yearnings, but as this man's dark despair came to the surface, I felt a powerful urge to kill myself. This lasted for no more than a few hours and then diminished. As with a number of other major past-life memories, this one unscrolled in chunks rather than all at once, taking several days. And as with the others, the darkness gradually diminished as Compassion flowed to the anguish and confusion.

In the fourth month of retreat, I experienced one of these particularly vivid memories. The complete memory unscrolled in chunks over a period of about a week. This particular past-life was such an important part of my retreat, and it provides such a good example of the deepest spiritual need and the way in which it is helped, that I think it is worthwhile quoting at length from my diary. Here are some excerpts. Each separate excerpt relates what happened on a particular day, and all the excerpts are in chronological order:

Rev. Master Mokugen and I were walking together. I was feeling very miserable. We stopped by the Guardian Shrine and I asked for help. I meditated. There was stillness, but also a deep pain, both physical and spiritual, in the hara. Tears came to my eyes and long, quiet sobs. The thought arose, "Why do they hate me so?" Gradually, I realized that I was experiencing the dying thoughts of a man in a Nazi gas chamber. A great gust of sobs broke out of me. At times my breathing was labored and loud. As grief flowed out, I felt the Water of the Spirit in my upper body, especially the chest, like humming electricity. I saw that as the man was dying, he felt sympathy and compassion for those who were dying with him. I said over and over [expressing the man's inner cry for help as he was dying], "Please help me, please help me, please help me." My breathing became faster and shallower. I knew the man was dying. The rapid, shallow breathing continued until it terminated in one long, slow exhalation in which all the breath was expelled. Then it just stopped for a long moment. This was the moment of the man's death. [But, of course, I started breathing again. I am not that man, though in me is all that is left of him.] Gradually I quietened. A flood of love for the Eternal welled up within me. I knew that this man was loved by the Eternal and by me--the Love of God and the love of man.

[During the next few days I experienced intense fear and grief.] The cause of the fear and grief that I have been feeling has showed itself. Men stormed into the house of the man who later died in the gas chamber. He was abruptly separated from his wife and children and taken away. He never saw his family again and never knew what happened to them. The grief and horror of this separation flowed out of me and I wept in great sobs.

[The next morning] more pain and grief welled up. I saw that the man had been a good, decent husband and father who took his responsibility as the family's provider seriously. He had felt responsible for the fact that his family was taken by the Nazis. I saw that the man had not known how to let go and trust the Eternal to look after his family. He had not known that death is just a moment in time, not an extinction. He had not known that death is a doorway opening to two possibilities. One possibility is that of directly returning to the Eternal; the other possibility is the more indirect, but eventually certain, route to the Eternal through rebirth. And both are manifestations of the Compassion of the Eternal.

I began to feel spiritual pain. I started quietly weeping. What came up was that everything had happened so quickly and so horrifically that the man who had died in the gas chamber had not had the opportunity to grieve for his family. I felt the great sadness of losing one's whole family in an instant and never knowing what happened to them. I wept and wept. I felt the grief to be like the sorrow of the world that only Kanzeon--the Compassion of the Eternal--can comprehend and heal. I felt that Kanzeon was helping. The Water of the Spirit was like electricity in my upper body. I experienced a great love for Kanzeon, for the Eternal, for all those in my karmic stream.

I will always be grateful for Rev. Master Mokugen's generosity to me during these difficult and wonderful weeks and months. Human stillness, understanding and sympathy, given at the right time and in the right way, help.

Precious Jewels

All the beings whose karma we have inherited, all the spiritual need that has come down to us from the past, all the pain and longing and grief--all of this is the precious raw material of enlightenment. Here is another short excerpt from the diary of my retreat:

The gratitude and love for all the beings whose karma we have inherited is a fundamental aspect of the harmonization of our karma with the Eternal. It is a precious gift--not something that we create, but something that gradually comes of itself as a result of our willingness to be the vessel through which the Eternal does Its work of healing and conversion.


Click here to proceed to Section XIV

Click here to return to Table of Contents of Book Two: How to Grow a Lotus Blossom: Reflections in a Disciple's Life



Click here to go to the Table of Contents of Book One: How to Grow a Lotus Blossom: Reflections

Click here to return to Home Page