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Image by Alzira Canuto

Buddha’s Last Instruction

“Make of yourself a light,”
said the Buddha,
before he died.
(Fragment of a poem by Mary Oliver)

We are here to wake up and then to celebrate. That’s all we are here for.
Leonard Jacobson

“In music, we discover ourselves as minds recognizing the work of something like ourselves. Music is not the product of unintentional forces, but of souls. When we hear it, we know that we hear it because someone first felt, thought, wrote, and played it. In it, we recognize not only the movement of another soul, but also the intention which devised the system and the ordering power that created the possibility of harmony. It suggests to us that the universe is not — could not be — cold and indifferent, but is shot through with intention, feeling, and purpose.” Dvorak

How do we wake up, how do we make a light of ourselves, become true and real?

Meditate? Follow a guru? Join a cult? Do art?

It’s not easy, because we’re on our own. It seems that if anyone shows us a well worn path, it’s the wrong one. It’s not made for us. Imitation of Christ, Buddha or anyone else covers our uniqueness so we can’t see it.

The one thing that helps is listening like an artist, without judgement. Just listening to the qualities of thought and emotion that pass through us, learning what kind of being we are. That kind of attention seems to set off a process of mutation in our foundations that eventually reveals our own light.

That light is our intention and purpose for living.

Most of us miss it, though. We’re too busy surviving. Getting ahead and “making of ourselves a light” don’t live in the same universe.

This subject doesn’t seem quite so ridiculous as it might have a short time ago, when we were running around in a frantic daze. We are being asked to sit still at the moment, which could lead to some insights if we actually do it. It’s interesting to me how angry some people are getting because they can’t maintain their habitual ways of distracting themselves. Going and coming, meeting and greeting, buying and selling give us the impression we’re really living. Sitting still and reflecting threaten to reveal the emptiness of our lives. That’s the last thing we want to see. We are furious at those powers keeping us sequestered from our ingrained busy-ness.

We’re not anchorites, after all. We’re normal. Or are we? Is the way we have been living good for us, good for the world, healthy, intelligent?

Some of us will welcome this respite from a way of life that has never felt normal or even interesting. Some of us won’t get angry or frightened by solitude and silence. Being alone with our thoughts is a way of learning, a way of self-care and self-nurturance. All those ignored pieces of ourselves can finally be attended to. Our fragmented self may rearrange itself into a more commodious whole. Things may reveal themselves and start to heal.

We might even discover that we’re not who we thought we were.

If we learn to stop living on the surface of ourselves, we’ve at least taken a step toward finding that light inside that the Buddha was pointing to. Listening is the healing manoeuvre, not rushing about accomplishing the world’s errands.

Less needs to be done than we think. The essential thing is to be real, not impressive to others. This time out, whether it turns out to be weeks or years long, gives us a chance to develop vision. It gives us an opportunity to see ourselves as we are, as shocking as that may be, and to change what needs to be changed.

Written by

I occasionally write fiction and also about creativity, loving, language learning and travel. I’m a longtime painter and reader.

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