What it Means to be Real: Reflections of an Ordained Buddhist Priest.

Angel

 

By Ty Phillips

 

I’ve often thought of giving up my priesthood.

Not because I want to drink and smoke and have unmeaningful sexual encounters; I can do that either way. I have thought of giving it up because of the emotional baggage we bring to it.

“Aren’t you a priest?” “You can’t do this, or that, or the other thing.” “Aren’t you suppose to be some holy weirdo?” “You shouldn’t be watching cartoons, or making jokes, or, or, or..”

I often wonder if it means anything at all. Does it hold any meaning to anyone but my own ego? I asked a friend, “Who ordained the Buddha?” When Mara asked the Buddha a similar question, it is said that the Buddha placed his fingers into the soil and replied, “The earth is my witness.”

For 40 years after his final encounter, his life and teaching bore witness to his immense wisdom. It was not some transmission received, nor some holy ceremony.

It is however, quite often the case that we go chasing after each new teaching and each new teacher. We shy away from putting into true application the original teaching itself. We expect the teacher to fill the role of doctor and medicine, when in reality, like us, they are simply an imperfect vessel.

The responsibility lies within.

As I encounter each new person—each new scenario that requires action—my priesthood does not matter. It does not help me offer money, a hug, a helping hand, a word of counsel or just the love someone needs in that moment. It instead props me up within my own ego. It in itself does not go out into the city, into the country, into the jails or into the home of the sick.

I notice that maybe this thing is also why I notice the criticism that tends to come with it. The soft underbelly of my ego trembles at the pokes it receives. “Maybe I shouldn’t do this?” “Maybe I shouldn’t do that?”

The truth probably lies closer to, maybe I shouldn’t pay so much attention to the frailty of my desire. Am I placing so much expectation on myself in a sense to gratify my ego in order to soothe my own visions of what a priest should and shouldn’t be? Am I stuck in a cycle of spiritual materialism? Probably.

So I find myself at the end of this question: Do I give it up, or do I keep it?

Does it even really matter? That person who wanted a friend will not know. The child who wanted a hug would not notice. The man on the street begging for a shirt and a sandwich will not care. The act of giving it up I think, may be driven by the ego’s need to make sure I feel I am doing the right thing.

So, here we are, at that funny little doorway between idiocy and laughter, between wrong view and simplicity. Poof! Here it is, enlightenment on the internet. I know the key.

The key is that there is no key. I don’t have to be happy 24 hours a day. I don’t have to shine like a 100 watt halogen bulb. I just need to be here. With you, with myself, with every simple encounter—and that’s it.

Yes, I falter. Yes, I get sad. Yes, I will even feel like staying in bed all day sometimes. Anyone who says otherwise is probably trying to sell you something.

That maybe is the key.

Maybe I was wrong. Maybe the key is just being open, honest and truthful even in my doubt. And allowing you to be truthful in yours.

“Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’

‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.

‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’

‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’

‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

~ The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams

 

Photo: (mererecorder/tumblr)

Editor: Dana Gornall

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Ty Phillips

Ty Phillips is the co-founder and director of The Tattooed Buddha. A former big city bouncer, now pacifist Buddhist minister, and writer he spends his time counseling youth and hard to reach adults in peaceful and engaged means. Using his past as an example, he is able to engage those who would otherwise probably not seek out and relate to dharma teachers. Ty is a contributing author for The Good Men Project, Rebelle, BeliefNet, Patheos and The Petoskey News. He is a long term Buddhist and a lineage holder, as well as a father to three amazing girls and a tiny dog named Fuzz. You can see his writing at The Good Men Project, BeliefNet, Rebelle Society.
By | 2016-10-14T07:51:48+00:00 April 23rd, 2015|blog, Buddhism, Featured|1 Comment

One Comment


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    Metta Pillar June 6, 2015 at 3:25 am - Reply

    Beautiful and heart felt, thank you for this post. I think it is the key. Namaste

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