Monday, February 22, 2010

the solution you seek

In Buddhism, there is the tale of Gotami, the grief-stricken mother who approaches Gautama Buddha with her dead child in her arms and pleads with him to resurrect her baby. Over and over again, Gautama tells her that he cannot. Over and over she begs him.

Finally, Gautama tells Gotami that she must first bring him some mustard seeds from the first household she comes to where no one has died. Gotami sets off with heartfelt determination and begs from first one household and then another. The residents are all happy to give her a few mustard seeds, but when she asks if anyone has died in the house, they are dumb-struck: Of course someone had died there.

Finally, Gotami returns to Gautama and says, approximately, "Enough with the mustard seeds! Give me the teachings."

Even setting Buddhism aside, the story of a heart-wrenching tragedy resonates with anyone whose heart beats. Whatever the tragedy, it can reach to the heavens and tear your life apart. Who does not recognize tragedy, whether it is their own or someone else's? Little or large, tragedy can eat you for breakfast.

And yet, in the end, tears are not enough.

Somehow, everyone seeks 'the teachings' that will put their tragedy to rest. Maybe the teaching is "time heals all wounds" and the practice is simply putting one foot in front of the other. Maybe there are drugs. Maybe ... well, who knows which bandage will bind this wound?

Whatever the suggested cure, one thing is known for sure: The blood is real, the tears are real, the searing is real. Philosophy and religion can take a hike. This is painful!

I was reading a Buddhist-like web site today that promised enlightenment in a week. It wasn't cheap, but still ... if my dead child could be resurrected in a week, would I really worry about money? Who wouldn't 'give anything'...?

I have plenty of practicing Buddhist acquaintances who would scoff at the notion of enlightenment in a week, and yet how different, really, is a lifetime practice from a shazzam, instant-gratification approach?

As a practical matter, there is a quite a lot of difference, but where your flesh and blood lies lifeless in your arms, where tragedy rakes and claws, isn't the longing the same? To find relief? To find release? To be quits with sorrow or uncertainty? ... right now, if not sooner!

I guess we all have to fall prey to diversions -- to seeking the mustard seeds from the first house in which no one has died. Sometimes the diversions are offered by charlatans, sometimes they are offered by people whose motives are nothing but the best. But either way they are diversions from the flint-hard reality that tears are not enough ... hell, even the teachings are not enough. Everything is a diversion and a lie, in one sense, until we put the teachings we are offered into effect.

From the release and relief point of view, this flint-hard reality is as if life looked us in the eye and said, "cut the crap; there is no solution until you find it." This may seem like cruel and unusual punishment in a world rife with altruists and other well-intentioned or hug-prone people ... but there it is ... like it or lump it. Seeking answers from others, relying on others -- whether for a week or a lifetime -- cannot resurrect what is so beloved.

Yes, there are good teachers. Yes, there are bad teachers. But these are only teachers -- the wise and kindly and misguided and despicable ... the ones who send us in search of mustard seed from the first house in which no one has died. The tragedy is real, the search is real, the usefulness and uselessness are real ... but is all that really enough to resurrect what is so beloved?

Is it possible that what is so beloved sits chortling on the living room carpet at your feet?

Better take a look.

1 comment: