By Alex Chong Do Thompson
One of my all-time favorite anime shows while I was growing up was Naruto.
It followed the adventures of a group of children who were training to become ninjas in order to protect their village from rival clans. For a kid’s show, it dealt with some pretty adult themes like the importance of loyalty and the dangers of seeking revenge. But my favorite part of the show was the way everyone manifested their ninja abilities in different ways. One ninja might be an expert in hand to hand combat (taijutsu) while another might be an expert in creating illusions (genjutsu). Meanwhile, a different ninja might have the spirit of his dead mother living in the sand that he carries around in a giant gourd on his back (long-story).
My point is that each of them showed their ninja-ness to the world in different ways.
Based on each person’s personality and combat abilities they would develop their own “way of the ninja” and refer to it sometimes in the show; as in, “I won’t abandon my teammates in their time of need. That’s not my way of the ninja!”
As I continue to grow in my practice, I’m realizing that Zen works in much the same way. We learn the rituals, we sit in meditation, and we read countless books. But all of that is pointless unless we develop our own, “way of the Buddha” and learn to express our Buddha-ness in everyday life. Naturally, this will look different for everyone. Some of us express the dharma by being loving and patient with our children. Some of us engage in direct action. Some of us express the dharma by eating a plant-based diet, and some of us teach meditation. But as practitioners of the way it falls to each of us to take our practice off the cushion and into the marketplace.
When we express our way of the Buddha, practice becomes a living thing.
We engage in conversation with the world, and our darkest moments become our greatest teachers. When we reach this level of understanding, we realize that the world isn’t trying to hurt us. It just wants to see what we’re made of.
It would be nice if we could sit in our meditation halls and be blissed-out all day, but that’s not what practice is about. Buddha didn’t hide under the Bodhi tree, so we can’t hide under our cushions. Rather, it’s incumbent on each of us to walk into the world, as he did, and face the challenges that each moment presents. We can’t just talk the talk of Buddhism, we must walk the walk as well.
The world is saying, “Show me your way of the Buddha.” How will you respond?
Show me your way of the Buddha
Manifest dharma in your life
The teachings didn’t die with our teacher
But words won’t keep them alive
You meditate and quote sutras
Preach compassion and love
I know you can talk like a Buddha
Now show me you can walk like one
Editor: Dana Gornall