Tag Archives: bodhisattva

Our tomato

In the Buddhist tradition, it is said that suffering is caused by attachment. The truth is that all things change, so if we are addicted to a certain form (the way a relationship has always been for instance) we are going to suffer. We heal ourselves by becoming aware of these addictions or cravings and then applying compassion. We release the addiction to the form and rest in the eternal rather than the changing. The Buddha is eternal. Our own Buddha-nature is eternal. Our physical bodies and the bodies of our affairs (money, relationships, jobs) change.

The summer, we managed to grow a real, live tomato plant. It’s the first time there has been fruit from a plant I planted in this home. I have planted thyme (haven’t tried to harvest anything) and other herbs, but they generally only do okay at best. Mint, which is an invasive weed, I managed to kill. But this year there was a success. Okay, so it’s only one small tomato, but it counts.

How silly would it be to mourn the plant that is fading with the summer instead of focusing on what it has given us (about a bite of tomato each)? I’m not going to roll the planter inside my home to save the plant, because it’s way too heavy and my cats would get into it. I can celebrate what it gave me and release this form, taking with me only the awareness that it is possible in God’s universe for me to participate in growing a plant. I have discovered part of the unchanging reality of my true self, my Buddha nature. I can let go of the form now.

In the same boat

I never liked working in groups in school. I wanted to be in charge of earning my own grades. I didn’t want some other person, who was obviously never going to be as smart as me, messing up my GPA. Yes, I’m talking about elementary school. I had issues.

Most days now, I’m an adult. I recognize the Oneness of all beings and I get that life on this planet is a group project. We sink or swim together. There’s a thing called the Bodhisattva vow that says that souls are innumerable and the Bodhisattva vows to row them all to the distant shore. I don’t vow to row anyone else to shore, but I’ll take an oar and help. If we’re all just walking each other home, as Ram Das says, then I’ll walk next to anyone. I don’t think I do the Universe any favors by thinking I need to carry someone else. After all, that other person is just as much a part of God as I am, right?

Having said that, I’m discovering the joy of working together with other folks who are walking home at the same rate as I am. Yesterday, a group of us went outside after service and weeded the labyrinth. With so many working on the project it went pretty fast and it gave me time to catch up with folks I usually don’t get to have conversation with on Sunday. I also just got back from a gathering of ministers in North Carolina. It’s a beautiful place and the Center there in Asheville is impressive at a lot of levels. My ministry only started being successful once I recognized the power of the group consciousness. I started enjoying ministry when I realized that part of my job was to do lunch with colleagues and share the joys and challenges with them. Those connections make my career possible.

So today I’m up for the group project this teaching Universe has assigned. Today I work with and walk with anyone who sincerely wants to create a world that works for everyone.

 

Leadership

I just started reading John C. Maxwell’s “Leadership Gold: Lessons I’ve learned from a lifetime of leading.” Now I read a lot of leadership books. It was part of my training in psychology and as a minister. For whatever reason, I was blessed with folks even outside my official teachers that kept steering me back in the direction of studying leadership. So I know I’m slogging through the wrong book when I sit there thinking, “I could have written this and why is the author dumbing it down so much?!?” I know I’m on the right track when I’m highlighting every other word and/or planning a class or how I can fit certain ideas into a Sunday talk. Leadership Gold is of the second group, in case you’re wondering. Since this is a library book, I can’t highlight. I’ve already got my talk for this week written on a slightly different subject. Luckily… I blog.

I’ve barely made it through the introduction and I can tell you right now, this book is really about spirituality and the job of a bodhisattva. Did you know I’m a bodhisattva? Did you know that you are, too? Being a bodhisattva is the best job in the world. A bodhisattva is the best kind of spiritual leader – someone who comes and reminds folks of their own inherent wisdom and power and maybe nudges them toward certain practices or tools along the way. Okay, so I nag. We all have our talents.

The bodhisattva as described by Maxwell starts by first learning for him or herself the art and science of leadership. Step one in leadership is always going to be knowing how to use the tools of the trade. If I can’t do it, I can’t teach it. And if I don’t know what I’m doing, I can’t speak about it simply so that other folks can learn it. So I have to live this stuff. Now, if I make it all complicated it’s called theology. If I make it esoteric and ineffable, it’s called mystic philosophy.

In spirituality, it’s really just being a decent human being. Yep, that’s all we bodhisattvas do. It really boils down to “Be nice.” We gussy it up in ritual and burn incense and write long books we call scripture, but that’s what spirituality really is. Being nice means I listen attentively and respectfully. Being nice means I don’t want to take away from other people or tell some folks they can’t be part of our group. If I were being professional that would be called being racist or homophobic and/or having a “lack and limitation” consciousness, but it’s really just a variation on not saying “Give me your lunch money and no, you can’t sit with us.”

A bodhisattva’s main job is to help other people become, well, bodhisattvas really. Leadership is really teaching other people to be all they can be, coaching and encouraging them. I can’t be a leader if I’m walking alone. That’s a hiker, not a leader. I need folks to walk with me. These days, leadership doesn’t even look like walking at the head of the line –it’s more like being part of a group of hikers, but knowing the trail better than the others. As Maxwell wrote, you’re a tour guide not a travel agent.

So if you’re part of my community and I get to the do this in person – keep up, don’t wander off and definitely ask questions (h/t to Doctor Who). If you’re just passing through, take what you found useful and toss the rest. You know which is which. And either way, yes, you can sit with us and I’ll trade half my ham and cheese for some of your baloney… hey, that’s deep