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January 13th, 2017

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11:54 am - Some notes to myself

The Buddha Akshobia on my left bicep:

Akshobia is one of dhiani-transcendental-mythical Buddhas; not really a historical figure but rather an archetype represented here in a visual form. The mudra (the way his hands are placed) represents Great Fortitude (overcoming obstacles and dissolving the final doubt).

* * *

I deserve --

A meal? A bandage when I am injured?
Medicine that might help with a headache?
A fair payment for a job well done?
A kind hand? An embrace by a friend?

I try to think that all of these
are but gifts and offerings
kindness and generosity of the universe
rather than what is deserved

Sort of like the Amida's smile
spreading beyond the horizons
embracing in its gentle grace all
sentient beings, both humans and animals
even the blades of grass.
Not the matter of justice
not the matter of what is earned
but rather the matter of
the Great Wisdom-Compassion
exemplified by all Buddhas and sages

So, I deserve what?
A meal? Medicine? A shelter?
A fair payment for a job?
A kind hand? An embrace?

Or perhaps none of these things
as I like to think
for it helps me be less angry
when we do not get
what I know
we really deserve


A few comments:

1) The above is inspired by what my friend, Tony Brown, posted on his FB wall (and also here: http://darkmatter-rss.livejournal.com/789997.html). He called his piece "Deserve (fragment)"

2) There is a story about the Buddha that I read long time ago and that inspired many of my thoughts about what we have earned and what we deserve. In this story the Buddha is injured by bandits sent by his jealous cousin Devadatta. The fact of the Buddha's injury creates a paradox. On one hand, according to some standard assumptions about how our lives unfold, everything that happens to us, all conditions in which we find ourselves, all of this is a matter of karma. But also, on the other hand, the Buddha is someone who exhausted karma and is supposed to be free from suffering. So, how could anything Devadatta did injure the Buddha? How can someone exhaust karma and yet be injured at all?

There are various ways to resolve the paradox. I myself thing that not everything that happens to us is a result of karma. Some of this shit is purely accidental just random stuff that happens. Some other shit is a result of free will of other beings (i.e., it results from freely done actions done by others).

Later on I found out that the latter is explicitly asserted in some Buddhist canonical texts. They state that the Buddha's injury was not his karma but rather the result of acts freely done by others.

By the way, to be open about it, I am not a Buddhist; at least, I am not a Buddhist in any religious sense. I've been there, done it. It did not work for me; at least, it did not work for me in this life. (I'm not any other "___ist" either.) But a Buddhist mythology and philosophy deeply affects my ways of thinking, no doubt about it.

3) It's good to distinguish a few things: First, there is a difference between INJURY and HURT. In this story, it's clear that the Buddha was injured. It is less clear that he was hurt. And it is quite unclear how much he suffered (perhaps not at all). Second, there are various kinds of pain and suffering. There is a pain in my knees after I walk my dogs. It's not really suffering (or deep suffering). And it is relatively easy to take care of; I just need to take aspirin and give my knees some rest. But there is also something that affects us more deeply, an existential angst caused by deep doubts about the meaning of life, our place in the "grand schema of things", questions about what happens when we die, and so on. No aspirin can cure this sort of suffering. And there is no point in suppressing the doubts for it only causes them to boil inside and tear us apart from within. But, I believe, we can dissolve existential angst by finding real answers to our questions and incorporating them in our paths.

4) Maybe what the Buddhas do is, primarily, about dissolving our deep doubts and suffering caused by them. Or so I think.

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