The world is filled with beauty – beautiful skyscapes, landscapes, people-scapes, both microscopic (not visible to the human eye) and macroscopic (visible to the human eye). We are all momentarily moved and excited by such a thought I’m certain. However, because of our intellectual ability to store everything away in the computerized store-cupboard of our mind, we then make ourselves separate from that beautiful scene or sight. We sit in our armchairs and bring out an album we have made and browse and dream. We forget that such a beauty may be just outside our room if we put the album down and walk outside. It is as if the beauty is in fact nothing to do with us, but nice to have a copy of. We greatly prize mental photographs (or even camera versions) custom-designed to suit our interior.
The tool of the human intellect is remarkably developed as our species evolves, but it is important to realize that it is only one of the many tools at our disposal. If we use only that one tool, we will become more and more disconnected from true reality, and instead come to view our own brand of reality as the truth. Another way to put this is that most of us live our lives in a meta (indirect) way, because we are so adept at creating concepts in our unique style. Imagine a world full of people each with their own brand of reality, custom-made to suit their needs, trying to interact with each other! It is truly amazing that there is any harmony or peace in the world at all.
All this is easily said, you may be thinking as you read, but so difficult to change. Most of us have become so conditioned to living in this indirect way that we think it’s perfectly normal. I used to be inured in this mode of being also, but I recognized something was not right, that life seemed empty and finite once a challenge had been met, an obstacle overcome. Like Prince Siddhartha, (Gautama Buddha) of the Shyakya clan who wanted for nothing in his privileged life, I was restless and felt powerless when I considered the great suffering in the world. So, I packed up the material things I really needed into a rucksack, sold my house, car and business, and went traveling to try to get to the bottom of this troubled feeling in my heart.
I spent the next 2 years living in different cultures all around the world, and of course, as many people do while traveling there, I confirmed my Buddhist pathway in India. However, in order to illustrate the notion of this article – Dharma-kaya (the Body of truth; the nature of all reality; the Buddha’s mind) – I will briefly describe an incredible adventure I had which jolted me out of living at a distance to reality. You can find a full version of this story in my novel, Easy-Happy-Sexy (see above ‘works’).
I had the good fortune while traveling in Australia to join a project. The objective of this venture was to help a group of indigenous Australians (known as aboriginals, or original people of Australia) to move into the very centre of Australia to resume their traditional life-style. The tribe consisted mainly of elderly sick people and young children, the young adults having been integrated into white Australian life. Their leader, Ninija, was determined that it was time that her people walked away from western style values which had been forced upon them by immigrants (see also my short story, Caretaker: the Departure, which is featured in the side bar).
Our task as white Europeans was to assist them in moving from their settlement deep into the outback, by building shade shelters where they could rest during the incredible heat of the day. The centre of Australia is the hottest place in the world, so, we used modern means – transport, equipment, materials – to quickly build shelters ahead of them as they slowly walked. We had plenty of time to get to know these people and to get close to their vision of the world, because we could only work at night due to the heat. I can certainly testify first-hand to the fact that they seldom use the tool of the intellect, and as a result are gifted in terms of their psychic ability, magic and survival powers, but that’s another story.
One night, in order to celebrate the good progress we had made along our route, they used boomerangs to hunt an elderly emu, which we cooked on a big bonfire. As we sat around the fire, I was pre-occupied looking up at the huge number of stars and gigantic moon in the sky, when one of the tribal women nudged me hard with her elbow. She asked me what I was looking at, and I told her quite naively that I had never seen so many stars in my life! She growled and laughed and poked me at such a response, which surprised me. She then gave me my first lesson in living directly. She said,
Those are not stars (there is no translation for the English word ‘stars’ in her language)! Those are the campfires of the dead as they travel on in the sky. It’s cold up there so they light small fires to warm themselves and to let us know they are journeying on.
Of course, indigenous peoples who live in close contact with nature without modern conveniences, are not separate from their universe. They do not make concepts at all, but believe that they play a key role along with all the phenomena around them created by The Great Mother, as they call Mother Nature. That the Great Mother will provide everything they need if they protect those phenomena and live in harmony with the Creation stories. There in the silent desert with only the crackling of Emu cooking, away from pollution of any kind, I suddenly realized that I needed to stop obsessively making concepts in my head. They would certainly block my way to real freedom. But most importantly, they would block my entrance to reality and the Dharma-kaya.
Meditation is one of the other tools Buddhists use to bring their minds under control and to live fully in the Dharma stream (see article 4: the Dharma Stream). Then, once the mind is reasonably stable, another tool we use is the Dharma-kaya, or the ever-presence. Briefly let me explain what this is, although perhaps my personal experience will transmit this meaning in a way which you can relate to more easily.
For the record then, after the Buddha’s Parinirvana, (his physical death) he bequeathed the body of his teachings to guide us onwards. As we saw in the last article -6, The Dharma Crisis – the sutras became his visible legacy to us, and they continue to be highly revered until this day. However, in terms of the invisible, the Buddha remains with each of us eternally in all of the Dharma that surrounds us. His presence is formless, perhaps better understood as an energy field, which has always existed and will always exist, and which transcends all perception. In other words, the Buddha is ever-present, around us every moment.
This energy field can manifest the Buddha emanations we need to keep us focused on our pathway, and that is why there are so many Buddhas depending on which tradition you come from: in Japan the fierce Buddha Achala, the compassionate Buddha Kanon, the all-seeing wise Buddha, Shyakyamuni, to name but a few. These emanations of the Dharma-kaya guide us in our practice in co-operation with the Dharma Protectors (see article 5). All of these guides are watching over us constantly, hoping we will notice the signs and signals they leave in our daily lives, much like the Creation figures of Ninija’s reality in the south Australian desert. As her people do, we need to just immerse ourselves in them so that we can nurture our higher selves and live a truly enchanted life right here and now on earth.
The most important thing for me in my daily life is the feeling that I am so loved by all these enlightened beings, not exclusively Buddhist deities but universal deities of Christianity and Islam and The Great Mother. And that I have a crucial part to play in the universe, in the tapestry of all life. Such unconditional love, such protection, allows me to fully recognize my potential as a human being. Unlike Saul from the film Take (see article 6), I do not have a choice in this. Through my meditation training, my human will has mostly dissolved as I become aware of its redundancy day by day in my short embodiment as a human being. I am loved unconditionally, so I must love unconditionally in return. I receive so much love, which fuels me to give out love unconditionally to every being in existence. It’s so simple really, and glorious, which always brings the tears of gratitude and bliss on like my devout Catholic grandmother.
Finally, the guru, the Master, is an emanation of the Dharma-kaya. The guru we devote ourselves to is the distillation of the Buddha’s teachings and life. He or she, living or deceased, is the key link with the Buddha, is directly connected to the Dharma Current. They are qualified to take this role because of the uninterrupted succession to the Dharma Stream right back to the original Buddha 2,600 years ago. The guru is ever-present every moment of our existence, witness to every breath we take, and is single-pointedly committed to showing us unconditional love forever.
The ever-presence of the guru is something wondrous to me. At certain important moments in the calendar of Buddhist events, which are at the centre of my life, my guru appears in the universe, manifest smack in centre of the Dharma. In Japan it is common for gurus to appear in extraordinary phenomena in the sky, in cloud formations, or as halos around the sun or moon. My guru often appears in cloud formations in the form of a phoenix rising from the raging fires of samsara, an important image in the teaching since his decease.
Who says we don’t have Creation Stories any longer in the developed world?