Sunday, October 2, 2011

you are the light

Petitioning the Great God Google, there are a number of translations returned for "Atta Dipa," a chant many Zen centers use and was part of the liturgy of a center I once attended. It is a blessedly short chant and quite easy to memorize in Pali or whatever the original language is. One translation goes:

Look within!
You are the Light itself.
Rely on yourself.
Do not rely on others.

The Dharma is the Light.
Rely on the Dharma.
Do not rely on anything,
Other than the Dharma.

You are the light of the Dharma. What a warming sentiment. I always felt as if I were lowering myself into a bathtub full of warm water when chanting "Atta Dipa." I might be confused and uncertain in a hundred hundred ways, but here was an encouragement and a kick in the ass: You ARE the light.

But it occurred to me this morning that if Buddhism were nothing but a warm bathtub, how awful the shivers might be!

Let's get it straight. After having been scrubbed and warmed by a line like "you are the light," after feeling a certain hope and a certain relief in the face of all of life's confusions and uncertainties ...

It's just a fact. You are the light. You are the linchpin and the foundation and the sine qua non of the universe, the Dharma, Buddhism and whatever other high and mighty peace you may espouse. Without you, the incalculable distances and beauties of the universe would simply evaporate. You are what holds everything together. No joke. Your incontestable indispensability is the light you claim to seek. But ...

But it's just a fact. There is no need to get your knickers in a twist about it. No need to go on imagining it. No need to draw endless bathtubs full of warm and warming water. It's just a fact. So get used to it in the same way you managed to get used to breathing. Stop chasing what you've already caught and certainly don't need to hold on to, even if you could.

Stop it!

Rinzai once encouraged his monks by saying, approximately, "Your whole problem is that you do not trust yourselves enough."

Cut the distrust crap -- praising this and seeking that!

You are the light. Get used to it and get over yourself.

If you have a better idea, I'm open to suggestions. :)

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