Passing A Moment
May 6, 2015
Filed under Excitement, Expansion, and Enlightenment in East Asia
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“Philosophical discussion will not be the best way to understand Buddhism. If you want to be a sincere Buddhist, the best way is to sit. We are very fortunate to have a place to sit in this way. I want you to have a firm, wide, imperturbable conviction in your sitting. Just to sit, that is enough.” Indeed, I say. I came to Taiwan with the intent of becoming a better Buddhist. Prior to arrival I had idealized visions of visiting temples and monasteries day in and day out, learning fundamentals from real Taiwanese monks. Obviously that would be really neat, but that’s not what I’ve encountered. Instead of an exotic study, a regular, everyday examination of Buddhism has opened my eyes up to the exoticisms waiting in every moment of living.
Where I live I do not know many full-fledged Buddhists. A good friend turned me on to the path but he himself does not follow with strong conviction. Since being in Taiwan I have met many full-fledged Buddhists. These people have is a tangible aura of benevolence and wisdom about them. Upon meeting them I feel immediately connected; I know that they are good, that they want to help me. And they do.
Take Karma Lekshe Tsomo, a Buddhist and Ph.D I had the pleasure of meeting and learning from at the Museum of World Religions. After meeting Karma I began an email correspondence with her regarding Buddhist reading recommendations. Obviously this has been impactful – the readings have already opened my eyes tenfold and accelerated my path towards enlightenment. But Karma also does something special at the end of every email correspondence – she signs off with a special phrase. Her first correspondence signed of with “Aha!” I didn’t immediately get its significance, but once I read the sign-off on the second email it clicked. “Awaken to the momentâ€¦” it read. Man, books are a great way to learn, but solitary learning is so closed-off, sometimes it can be hard to remember it all. When Karma signed off with this message it was more significant; it came from another human being just for me. Since then I’ve remembered her sign-off and used it as reminder throughout my day as a way to maintain mindfulness. “Aha!” makes sense now as well. I see it as a catchphrase to remind us of the novelty in every living moment.
“When Buddha transmitted our practice to Maha Kashyapa, he just picked up a flower with a smile. Only Maha Kashyapa understood what he meant; no one else understood. We do not know if this is a historical event or not, but it means something. It is a demonstration of our traditional way.” This quote and the one I opened with both come from Shunryu Suzuki’s Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind. Together they are lessons in Buddhism. The opener symbolizes not only the fortune we have in being able to sit and meditate wherever we want, but as an extension of this, the fortune we have to maintain mindfulness, sitting or not, in every moment. The second phrase is very interpretable but I see it as two men passing along this Buddhist understanding of the moment. As the two passed the flower they shared a moment in which the passing of the “flower,” the joy of transmitting Buddhism was the only thing that mattered. Taiwan has been life changing for me because I finally understand the moment myself and I’ve taken it upon myself to pass this flower as many times a day as possible. These are not the moments I will never forget – every moment is a moment I will never forget.