We’re all broken
We’re all broken
We’re all broken in some way. We can’t let ourselves be fooled by Facebook or TV or the glossies. Literally no-one is perfect. Everyone of us is human (or dog, or whatever), with all the flaws that entails. Socially-maintained habit energy tells us that we can, and really, should be, perfect. So we strive and feel terrible when we fall short again, and again, and again.
We’re all broken. If we don’t take care of ourselves and each other, nobody will.
And yet we keep telling the world we are fine, we are doing great, we are perfect. Or if not quite that, then at least that we are on the way. That we’re getting shit done. That we’ve hacked it and are crushing it.
I call bullshit.
We’re all more or less broken. More or less of the time. That’s ok. What’s not ok is to make ourselves and each other suffer by pretending we’re not, by pressuring each other not to be.
Karmapa said, “failure is inevitable. Sooner or later everyone fails. So, may you fail well.”
We’re all broken, but we’re already perfect just as we are. Not necessarily in the sense that we just cheat and redefine ‘perfect’ as whatever brokenness we find in ourselves, although that’s possibly a good start.
No, we’re already perfect because our true nature already is Buddha, already is enlightened. We’re just too distracted to notice. But thanks to impermanence and emptiness we can re-notice, recognize, this at any given moment if we stop fussing about how broken we are and running around like headless chickens trying to function according to some arbitrary notion.
But make no mistake, as long as we *are* distracted by the habit of the eight worldly dharmas, we’re just keeping the hamster wheel spinning, layering more notions and distractions and delusions on top of what is already keeping us from recognizing the truth.
We’re all broken, and that’s a good thing: it can help us give up that distraction, renounce the notions of ‘functioning’ and ‘perfect,’ and remember what’s really important.
In that sense I wish all of us (human, dog, whatever) a year of recognizing our own broken self for what really is, and all the joy, compassion, and wisdom that comes with it.
Picnic with Tathagatha
Imagine you’re at home and have nothing urgent to do. All errands are run, the shopping is done, the house is clean, the garden is in top shape, and there is no work waiting for you to attend to it. It’s a nice day. Maybe a little on the warm side. Feels like Sundays during summer break used to feel. Completely free and open.
You look out at the street and can hardly believe your eyes: The Buddha is coming with a group of monks. And they are headed for your house. You are overwhelmed with joy.
You go out to meet them and welcome them to your house. You notice that they are dusty and hot from the walk and you offer your swimming pool for them to wash their feet and refresh themselves. Your pool is big enough to accommodate them all comfortably, even if it is a large assembly. (This is your imagination, after all. If you like you can have an ocean in your back yard.)
You go back into the house and call your family together to help you bring drinks and refreshments. All your family members are at home (again, this is your imagination, anybody can be there, even those who are far away or have already passed away – include everyone who is dear to you), and together you fetch water and other drinks from the kitchen and bring them out to the Buddha and his monks. (Don’t worry, you will find your kitchen and cellar stocked with a limitless supply of drinks.)
Next you and your family go to fetch fresh robes for the Buddha and his monks. In one of your closets (or maybe in a room behind the garage or in the basement or attic) you find beautiful new robes in just the right number and you and your family members bring them out to the Buddha and his monks and offer them to them. (If the Buddha and his friends in your imagination are wearing other clothes, offer whatever clothes appeal to you.)
While your visitors change, you and your family go back into the house and fetch more offerings. Thrones, lotus seats, flowers, incense, lamps, parasols, nectar, food, music would be traditional offerings, but you can offer anything you like the most in the world. Whether you currently own it or not. Whether it can at all be owned or not. Anything you find desirable you bring out and offer to the Buddha and his friends. (This is your imagination, go wild. Offer anything your senses can imagine.) When you offer it to the Buddha or his monks it becomes exactly what they need. Whether you can see what that is or not doesn’t matter.
The Buddha and his monks have now settled down on the lotus seats and thrones under the parasols and in the midst of the ocean of flowers other beautiful things you have provided in your garden and are enjoying your offerings.
You notice that your neighbours (all sorts of people you know, you have seen some times, or strangers, and especially people you have or have had difficulties with) are getting curious and you invite them in. They all bring offerings to the Buddha, and together you, your family, friends, neighbours express their veneration to the Buddha. You might prostrate, or circumambulate him, or simply look deeply at him with your palms joined in a lotus, anything you like to do to express your respect and admiration for the Buddha.
You become aware of all the other people who have joined the occasion and are joyfully offering, prostrating, and so on, and you notice you are overwhelmingly happy for them to have this opportunity.
After a while you remember something negative you have recently thought or said or done. Anything at all. You step closer to the Buddha, who smiles at you in a way that you know he will not judge you for anything at all, no matter how terrible it may appear to yourself and others. You confess and express your regret to him and as you do that you remember other things. You confess every single one of them. The Buddha listens and smiles and you know there is no judgement, only understanding. You become aware that there have been an infinite number of negative actions since beginning less time and you confess and regret all of them. And you give rise to the determination not to repeat any of them in the future.
Feeling a lot lighter you return your attention to the feast unfolding all around you in your garden. All your family, friends, colleagues, neighbours and a lot of strangers are there and everybody is happy and joyfully offering, venerating, regretting, and rejoicing. Once more you feel incredibly happy and blissful for all these people having this wonderful time and opportunity. You remember positive activities of Buddhas, bodhisattvas, and others, and rejoice in them, too.
Your gaze goes further outwards and you notice there are other beings there. Maybe animals, maybe beggars, homeless people, maybe even hungry ghosts. They can’t join out of their own initiative and they are suffering from many forms of deprivation. You invite all your guests to help you and together you return to the storage places in your house and bring out food, water, clothes, medicine, and all sorts of material or immaterial items that all those deprived and suffering beings are lacking and you give them away. The more you and your guests give away, the more becomes available for giving, and the more needy beings come to receive your gifts. This goes on and on and on but after some time all those needy beings are now satisfied and happy, having received what they need, and they can finally see the Buddha and are able to follow your invitation to join.
In the name of all your guests you and others approach the Buddha and respectfully implore him to offer a teaching. The Buddha smiles his agreement and everybody settles down in the garden to listen to the teaching.
The Buddha teaches and you know that you and every single being in your garden receives exactly the teaching they need at this point in their lives and everybody is deeply grateful and joyful and determined to put the teaching into practice.
The feast continues in this manner for a long time, but eventually the Buddha and his monks manifest the need to return to their monastery. You and others approach him again in the name of all guests, and offer wishes that he and his monks may live long and return again and again to the world to teach and help beings for many eons to come. And you offer the wish that his teachings may flourish and benefit beings until samsara is empty and all sentient beings have attained enlightenment.
The Buddha smiles and together with all your guests you bid him farewell and see him off. Then all of you remember all the wonderful things that happened and that they did during the feast and you all dedicate all the merit that was accumulated to the benefit, i.e, the enlightenment of all sentient beings.
You see your guests off, too, as they all now feel they need to go back to their own places, and wish for each of them that they may always be happy, that their practice be strong, that they progress and attain enlightenment quickly so they can benefit sentient beings.
When everybody has left you look around and see that your house and garden don’t seem to be different from what they looked like before the Buddha arrived, but you now know that this very place is a place of blessings that has hosted the Buddha and his turning the wheel of Dharma. And you know that there is no better place for your own practice and development, that everything you need is right here, has always been right here, and will always be right here.
You feel your aspirations grow strong, irresistibly strong, and you know everything is already perfect.