Well, now today, in the solar calendar, I am beginning day one of the 58th year in this lifetime. I’ve always been a late bloomer, a slow reader, etc., but once I get it, I get it deep.
I felt as I woke at 5am, that this coming year was going to be the year of the true realization of my purpose here on Mother Earth before I pass on. I feel strongly that this purpose will, in some specific way, increase my ability to love all (to desire lasting happiness for all), to increase my compassion (wanting to relieve the suffering of another) to that of Great Compassion (or “Bodhichitta”, the desire to relieve the suffering of all other sentient ((conscious)) beings), and finally to increase Wisdom ( the “Wisdom of Realizing Emptiness”, i.e., the direct experience that this realm is just a dream, to put it crudely . . . and that “I” am like a drop of water in an ocean: flowing together with all of existence, and interdependent with all other drops of water just like “myself”, in a mysterious and extremely complicated process of cause and effect . . . like billions of dominoes). I very crudely and intellectually am only beginning to understand this concept (that is not a concept) after more than 10 years of studying and receiving teachings and initiations in Tibetan Buddhism.
To put it more simply, I don’t applaud myself on this day; the praise is due to all others who have brought me to this place of leisure and fortune, where I live better than 99.99999% of the world’s population. If I had not been nurtured by my mother and father as a vulnerable child and a person experiencing the dire consequences of being unable to conform to the culture into which I was born, how could I have survived to this ripe age? If I did not have the loving bonds with my brothers and sisters and son and daughter-in-law, to whom would I have turned when in need? If I did not have the precious friendships of like-minded people, how would I have learned what real kindness is?
All of them have taught me patience, perseverance, morality, generosity, mental concentration (focus), and wisdom.
It boggles my mind that I am being celebrated, toasted to, given gifts, thought of, when all of them, as well as all of the creatures of the earth and the fruits of the earth, brought me to this current prosperity and well-being which has allowed me to develop my chosen spirituality, hence giving me the slimmest chance of attaining the Ultimate: true lasting happiness. How can I ever repay such kindness? The irony of such a day seems to me now, an odd practice, yet, because I love them all, I will humbly respect and participate in the ritual. Yet, in my heart, I toast them all with a bubbly glass of pure water and luscious lime.
We Americans are like Prince Siddhartha sequestered in his palace.
“There is evidence from many cultures that an opening toward spirituality arrives around fifteen or sixteen. What happens? In India the outer world ‘responds.’ So to speak. A child in an Indian village or city sees on the street constant religious processions. . . . A kind of madness of religious feeling helps the adolescent whose spiritual chakra has just opened feel at home.
But in our culture, the adolescent does not see ecstatic religious singers on the street. What he or she does see is posters advertising sexual energy. . . . The spiritual opening, having received almost no response, closes again. ‘Something marvelous is about to happen.’ But it doesn’t. . . . What arrives is disappointment. . . . Adolescents in all societies, we suspect, feel the disappointed emptiness; but in our culture, it’s as if adolescents are sold this emptiness.”
The child, the innocent, pure slate wiped clean, unresistant, unjudging, completely soft and malleable in body and spirit—becomes whomever or whatever rubs against her or him, become a being completely molded by others who give her or him shelter, food, comfort, touch, pain—any encounter with any influence, object, energy that presses upon her or him, until . . . reaching the aggregate of discrimination, of self-awareness, of the personal power of free will.
Most of us choose to continue to believe we “are” who we have been molded to be. And as layer upon layer of these beliefs accumulate, the stronger the affirmation of this surrounds us. We belong to the power of these beliefs, we become these beliefs. Sometimes they are virtuous; sometimes they are non-virtuous, yet how does a child know the difference? What is the absolute truth of this difference? What kind of effort and courage does it take for a former child to step out of the innocently-imposed dictation of who she was at the beginning—that pure, clean slate of a mind?
These thoughts came to this former infant, nearly 58 years later, after a dream of a four-year-old suicide bomber telling her “Allah” had something to tell him. She did not try to save this child; she threw him down the hall outside her hotel room, yelling “Suicide bomber! Suicide bomber! The little boy!” Then she left the hotel, got on a bicycle and followed the man who had sent the boy. The man held a tall metal cylinder like a barrel of oil on the back of his bike. He turned to go the opposite way, passed her, so she turned and followed him; he turned again and she turned, so that they completed a circle. She stopped, dismounted, went up to him and pushed him, told him she knew he had sent the boy, then she yelled “Suicide bomber! Police!”
Then the bomb went off in the hotel she had come from. She saw rolls of smoke pour from the upper floor of the hotel. She heard the death scream of the child as he was exploded, ripped apart.
She chooses now to think of the pure child he was, as we all have been, and still are. She chooses to think of her mother, angry; her old friend, angry, as children dressed by others all their lives. She chooses to think of Maggie, herself, her Tibetan Buddhist monk teachers as dressed by others all their lives, their caretakers themselves dressed by others all their lives. Child soldiers all of them. Martinets, if you wish. Like the grass, helpless to the wind, all are blown hither and thither by outside forces, the skill of free will laying waste inside us, unused, forgotten, convinced by ourselves to be repressed, stagnating—an evil to assert. Some of us grow to 58 allowing these external entities to determine our entire life purpose, our reason for being on this earth, in this body, place, time.
She once, recently, was given a dream gift of wisdom and affirmation. She doesn’t know who or what was the giver. It could have been yet another “external” entity permeating the boundaries of her dreaming skull. It could have been her own buried free will, crying out desperately, “Whatever brought you here on Earth, your presence here is invaluable.”
She had received other dream gifts like the one above, and as mysteriously generated:
1) She sits naked, cross-legged, covered to her waist in a pile of empty cigarette boxes. “You’ll always have what you need, but you’ll never be satisfied.”
2) “Love is the crowning glory of understanding.”
3) “Act as One” . . . and so on.
If one ascribes to a linear way of thinking—that we are born, we age, we die, and them, poof, we don’t exist—the infant state is truly unknowing and innocent of her or his potential to choose, to discriminate, to determine one’s unique path, because there will be nothing else but a black non-existence.
If one ascribes to a cyclical way of thinking—that we are born with the molding and shaping and influences of many past existences whose residues we have temporarily forgotten—the experience of the infant is the same . . . innocent unknowing, pure, ignorance of one’s potential. So what does it matter? Perhaps she has the chance to remember those past influences and learning.
Perhaps as she ages she is capable of realizing that pure, uncluttered, passive, ignorant child blown by the wind, bending every way to each powerful force. Perhaps she is capable of seeing this ignorant purity in each being she encounters. Ah! The forgiveness and tolerance it gives her even as she is assaulted by other aging children inadvertently shaped to perpetuate her or his ignorance—just as she was shaped.
No one is to blame. We all participate in this endless process, whether we believe we have one life or many.
She supposes the opposite of free will is obedience—to society, to a corporation, to a person, to a dogma, to an idea, to predetermined fate, etc.
She recently dreamed of a biological female relative, of this lifetime, who confessed fully, in front of her and another very loving couple (a man and woman who themselves were sharing loving, touching, making non-lustful gestures to both Maggie and her biological relative). The relative confessed trustingly “O, I want to make love with my father so much. I wish I had been born as a wild woman to him, and that we could make love all the time.”
The loving man and loving woman immediately halted their gentle expressions to Maggie and her relative; they literally froze. Both backed away from Maggie and her relative, the man claiming he needed to go to his room of contemplation, of meditation, turning his brown knit sweatered back on them. The woman left to go out of the place where Maggie and the relative lived.
She said to her relative, “Sometimes, Dora, we have to keep such things to ourselves, because others may be offended; others may have a completely different set of beliefs about what is right and wrong.”
So, for her, that brought up the question of what was truly, inherently right or wrong, virtuous or non-virtuous. Was morality only a learned set of values, environmentally imprinted on the mindstream of the passive, innocent child? Are we born already corrupted, in “original sin”? Or are we born pure and stainless, originally with the innate potential to choose between an absolute and universal set of ideas about right and wrong?
Is the best “morality” or set of ethics to become happy and help others become happy, to release ourselves from suffering, and not to cause others to suffer? Or is “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” the best “morality”? Are we born knowing one or the other set of values naturally as an absolute immutable truth? Or are they both imposed upon us, the passive, wind-blown blades of grass?
Some societies condone incest. Some societies condone polygamy. Is the guilt and shame and remorse and regret felt by a child soldier of Uganda, having been trained to kill, steal, plunder and rape, felt only when that child is taken from his or her original culture to a culture with different values? Are these painful feelings born only out of being shunned and judged by the new culture into which she or he is relocated? Had she or he grown to old age in the original culture, would she or he ever feel shame or regret about these seemingly horrific acts?
The child, the indiscriminate innocence, spontaneous response to love, to threat, pure instinct-driven upon emerging from the womb.
Victim to her/his indiscrimination.
A tiny blade of grass, tossed by the wind, urged by the earth, pulled upward by the sun, pelted by the rain.
Helpless, but for free will.
There are other ways. We must find other ways of sustaining the purity, the independent, innate cleanliness of the infant’s being, till she or he awakens to realization of her freedom to determine her choices, her path.
Possibly, we must only love, nurture, nourish, protect the tiny being—from the wind, the rain, the burning sun, the bitter cold—allowing those very elements that sustain life across the threshold of the child’s experience in their corresponding gentleness: pure air, pure water, comforting warmth, refreshing coolness stabilizing soft earth under her tiny feet, hands that embrace such secure sensations
She begins to experiment with her choices to explore, one step, then another. She sees and experiences a new perspective on the truth of where she is and who she is within the “where,” while the impartial, unconditionally-loving caretaker provides protection, gives her a wide girth to wander and explore on her own. She is accepted and respected for every choice she makes. She falls. She learns to get up. She learns her own limitations without restriction or interference, yet with simple protection. She rises and is helped to return to balance by her mindful attentive protectors.
Yet how can this come about when we, the naturally-designated protectors are so wounded, and imprinted and scratched and scuffed and beaten into submission to others’ ideas from past times, when we too were pure and uncluttered? Our blank cleanliness was disrespected, made worthless, shredded to useless bits, blown and scattered to the wind like the body of a four-year-old suicide bomber.
We, who spend the better part of our lives searching to patch together the flung bits of our whole being. How can we, with this desperation, ever come close to preventing this devastation from recurring to the child coming after us, when we have never had that experience of impartial, unconditional love, acceptance and respect ourselves?
We simply don’t know how to do this for the child, except in moments of guessing and moments of spontaneous love that fizzle out quickly because we never learned how to sustain our own inner conviction about these qualities so necessary for cohesion of a whole being who grows and blossoms.