Bodhi: the ever-presence

Ito Shinjo

In this series of articles I have described various aspects of Bodhi, the seed of enlightenment. A crucial aspect of enlightenment is the spiritual guide or guru without whom we probably could not experience Bodhi unless we were a great founder of a religion ourselves. In this final article, I’d like to talk about the ever-presence of the guru or spiritual guide.

The supreme purity, wisdom and spiritual achievements of your guru serve as a constant inspiration. As they became enlightened, so will you if you use them as your model. If they are living, as one of mine is, you can witness how they live their lives and realise that they possess all the qualities of a Bodhisattva and are able to maintain their compassion for all beings in all circumstances. They are an emanation of the Buddhas and because of your vow to them you become a vessel through which they can act in the human world. In other words, you can embody your guru in all that you do, say and think, in ‘Body, Speech and Mind.’ The more you purify your mind until you reach your true self, the more the Buddhas will use you as their hands and feet, to do what they are unable to do. We are mere humans, limited and easily influenced, without our esteemed gurus and protectors, who lift us on to higher planes of existence.

Once, thousands of years ago, the gods walked among us!  They were not invisible to this human world. So, it is said that in every sangha (Buddhist community), or any community, there are various emanations of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, of gods and prophets. I was recently invited to be used as a channel for one of my Dharma parents who had shifted to the spiritual source. I was to chant a special mantra in a grand ceremony for which there were many rehearsals and a lot of preparation. As I started to sing in front of cameras and satellite broadcasting equipment, I was aware that my voice was different, felt different.

Ito Tomoji

My living guru, the daughter of the deceased, cried tears of joy and recognized her mother in my voice. Later, many older sangha members who were present said that it was indeed the voice of our deceased Dharma parent. How joyful to become a channel for the spiritual world. We can no longer audibly hear the voices of those who have shifted to the invisible world, but we can empty ourselves of ego and become a vessel for them to utilize. Of course, there is no proof that this is so, but who needs proof!  That is so small-minded compared with the joy that many experienced as I chanted.

Our spiritual teachers are with us always, encouraging our enlightenment and purification. They totally put their trust in us, and we need to trust them totally in return. Throughout the ages, the faithful have believed without proof, and it is highly likely that your ancestors had such a faith. Now we live in an age of instant gratification – electronic devices allow us to make instant links, and information technology leaves no holes barred. But remember that our ancestors perhaps carried messages and scriptures across deserts and wildernesses to convey them to believers. We should not need to seek results and proofs if our intentions are pure. It is the process and generating of faith that is far superior to the result.

silk roads

I lived in the remote Pyrenees on the western border of France and Spain for several years and practiced Buddhism there. There were no Buddhists close by at all, was no sangha to support me, only devout Catholics and Protestants. This period of my life established my deep faith in myself and my resources to realize emptiness.  There were few results to be gathered apart from my growing commitment and intensifying happiness. Of course modern communication is a different way of living and seeing the world, but we should not become attached to it. It is only a means to an end! It is our deep personal commitment that matters more and will move us towards enlightenment.  Every day I remember the saints and Bodhisattvas who carried scriptures and relics for hundreds of miles, propelled by their pure desire to spread faith and liberate others.

Your ancestors most probably had this kind of undaunted faith. The seed of Bodhi was planted in them and they nurtured it lovingly. In the quiet sincerity of their days, without technology and the noise produced by modern life, they believed in greater powers, in magic, and the focus of their faith was real to them. They believed in their sacred mission in life, and so can you. Let your pure intentions pervade everything you do, say and think, and you will be a beacon of light to lead others to liberation from stress and suffering.

The next cycle of articles will focus on the rare faith of the Cathars, a sect of spiritual Christians,  in medieval France and Spain. Their beliefs are similar to those of Buddhists and they were my inspiration when I lived close to their mountain retreats. In a way, the intensity and undaunted quality of their faith, even in the face of death, kept me focused on my own faith.

Ito Shinso

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