Happy Bodhi Day 2020!!!
Today is Tuesday, December 8, 2020. It’s Bodhi Day! Did you make Mrs. Hanamoku’s Bodhi Day rice pudding?
This Bodhi Season is about the Heart Sutra – the Heart of Buddhism. It’s the subject of all of the recent posts on this site from October, November through today. So today, Bodhi Day, here is this year’s final Heart Sutra lesson.
Contrary to popular belief among those not from Hawaii, the most beloved Christmas song in Hawaii is not Bing Crosby’s “Mele Kalikimaka”. At least in my opinion, it’s a song with a haunting melody titled, “Iesu Me Ke Kanaka Wai Wai”, translated, “Jesus and the Rich Man”. I assume it’s based on the Biblical verse:
“And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” – (NASB) Matthew 19:24-16
However, this post isn’t about “rich guy bad, poor guy good”. Like any other skill, such as programming or practicing law or medicine, the ability to concentrate wealth and efficiently convert it into value for society is a very sophisticated skill. Yes, there is usually a lot of luck involved with becoming rich in the first place, but being a worthy custodian of it takes genuine talent.
The problem is that along with lots of money comes a lot of power that seems bigger than it really is. It’s still just mortal, human, flesh and blood power. It’s easy to lose sight of how miniscule that sort of power is compared to the Source of our Sentience. No, it’s not that rich people are bad. Riches is just an example of other relatively petty things we either take too much pride in or are addicted to.
Broadly, if our mind is tightly packed with some illusion, such as “money is my power”, anything else out there we could possibly believe is shut out, no vacancy in your mind.
In many ways, rock bottom has its peculiar charms. With nothing to protect, nothing to cling to, the mind of someone at rock bottom is empty. But it’s more than just a matter of “things can only get better from here”. Now, there is room for something different, something that could be unimaginably better.
That is where Siddhartha Gautama was the day he collapsed under the Bodhi Tree. Years before he ended up sitting under the Bodhi Tree, he had given up all of his wealth as a prince to seek out the truth of life – whatever that can mean. He followed all sorts of gurus for years, dead end after dead end.
Finally, emaciated and near death from crazy ascetic practices and nowhere else left to explore that was imaginable by his mind, his mind was flushed. Purely empty, he now had the clarity to see the relentlessly constant change of the Universe. It’s much bigger than anything in human experience and imagination. All our human brains can know is the present and all we can do is be here.
It’s OK to have possessions, even embarrassing wealth. But if the thought of somehow losing it causes you suffering, you don’t get Bodhi Day. You don’t get that the Universe is “thee” complex system, beautifully and intricately composed of layer upon layer of existence. Each layer is greater than the sum of the lower layer’s parts. Each of those parts is varied enough to supply the inexhaustible wealth of possibilities, the fountain of all we experience.
The best part is that we are all an intractable part of it. All creatures, in fact every thing, are ethereal phenomenon, empty of the form we take right now that we think is us. Our body is but a snapshot of the One big process spanning all of space and time.
Mind you, there’s no need to give up all your worldly possessions and seek salvation by following some guru around. You don’t need to drive yourself purposefully to rock bottom so you can be empty.
Instead, be genuinely kind and purely respectful to all sentient beings playing their parts. That can be hard, but it will hone both of your spirits. Believe it or not, the assholes of the world make you stronger, better. Why do pronghorns run so fast? Because the cougars run so fast. Conversely, depending on how you react to assholes, you make them better as well. Thank each other for the lessons (without sarcasm, of course) from the web of Yin and Yang interactions.
Empty your mind. With a full heart, blissfully and mindfully follow your path laid out by your personal relationship with those smart folks who figured it out centuries ago.
Happy Bodhi Day 2020 from all of us,
Reverend Dukkha Hanamoku, Mrs. Hanamoku, The Rubber Ducky Buddha of Joliet, The Eternal Fishnu, and Ringo
PS. My favorite version of Iesu Me Ke Kanaka Waiwai is by one of my three favorite guitarists, Pekelo. I like this one too by Kalaniaukai, Kaenaonālani, Kamanukea and Kuulei Kekoa. And this one by Mark Yamanaka.