In my early twenties I spent a fair amount of time with Buddhists young and old. They were very inspiring. There was work to be done – internally and externally – and they did it. For a lazy Catholic who was not especially interested in clearing interior ground and who considered the external world a sort of buffet to satisfy desire, it was new and remarkable. It was a blessing, truly.
One of the ideas that they introduced to me was that of the Bodhisattva. On page 83 of his book Zen: Merging of East and West, Philip Kapleau says that in the Mahayan tradition bodhisattvas, because of their “boundless compassion,” are supremely dedicated to helping others. He mentions the monk who, on his deathbed, was asked where he was going next. “To hell,” the monk answered. “That’s where help is needed most.”
So I have bodhisattvas on the brain lately. When we make a commitment to find the Truth, not merely seek it, and certainly not to merely talk about it, bodhisattvas show up like rain in spring to help us along the way. To help us flower, if the metaphor isn’t too precious.
Please understand that I am not a Buddhist and am not an expert on Buddhist concepts. I am merely seeing the helpfulness inherent in the form and observing its potential universality. There is a reason I learned it all those years ago and a reason it is showing up now.
Really, there are only two points I want to make. The first is that we are not alone – we are joined by those whose only goal is to help us. That is what the Holy Spirit does in A Course in Miracles. It helps us – it keeps what works, discards what doesn’t, and gently shuffles us in the direction of Heaven.
Sometimes this help will be very subtle, very interior. You will be driving and a little insight will spark in your mind. You understand something and so whatever shadows it was casting on your joy are dissipated or gone altogether. This actually happens a lot but it can be hard to notice. We are often looking for the big stuff, the shiny stuff, and so the little shifts – significant and beautiful as they are – pass without notice.
But if we are quiet and still and make a little space for it, we will perceive the Holy Spirit at work. It’s kind of fun actually.
The other piece of this is that – as illusory as the world is – it is not without its angels, its bodhisattvas. When I am open and willing, it is often astounding just how much of what is going on “out there” can be helpful “in here.” The bank teller, the student in the front row, the grouchy neighbor, whatever. The light just spills from them. We have to look for it – we have to be at least willing to perceive the Christ in them – but it is there. I can tell you from personal experience that it wants to be found. It really does.
The other aspect of this – the bodhisattvas we meet in the world, nudging us closer and closer to truth – is that we, too, are bodhisattvas. We forget this. I know I do. I walk around thinking that it’s all about me – my enlightenment, my joy, my peace, my relaxation and so on and so forth. Everything that happens, I think: “how does this affect me? What does this mean for my evolving Christhood?” It can be buried quite deep – because really, who wants to see how spiritually selfish they are – but it’s there.
Maybe it would be helpful to think of being bodhisattvas ourselves, you know? It’s a different mindset, trying to see how you can be helpful. You see how much of it is still about yourself and you want to get beyond it. You see that sometimes what we’re called to give isn’t what we want to give. We want to hug somebody and they need to be left alone. Or we want to be alone to read and study and somebody needs us to sit with them and talk about the weather.
I don’t think it is easy, taking and then staying faithful to bodhisattva bows, but I can see the necessity. I can see how it makes manifest the ACIM ideal that what we give to others is given to ourselves. It is the first lesson of the Holy Spirit – to have, give all to all. Those students who undertake to learn that lesson are blessed.
Having taken the first step . . . they will be helped. Once they have chosen what they cannot complete alone, they are no longer alone (T-6.V.A.6:8-9).
Bodhisattvas on the brain . . . How helpful we can be to one another, and how much we accomplish when all we want to do is be helpful.