By Sensei Alex Kakuyo
When we examine the human body, the default setting is one of good health; that is to say, we assume that people are supposed to be healthy, and then we go from there.
We wake each morning with the expectation that we’ll be able to breathe without trouble, that our eyesight will be clear, that our limbs will move freely, etc.
However, if something in our bodies doesn’t operate as we expect (e.g. our stomach hurts or we have a fever), then we have a name for that. It’s called being sick, and depending on the severity of our sickness we may go to a doctor in order to find a remedy.
Naturally, the doctor will do an examination, diagnose the cause of our sickness, and then prescribe a treatment so that our bodies will return to their default settings of good health. In terms of our spiritual health, Buddhism operates in much the same way.
We start with the assumption that human beings are basically good.
We expect them to make wise, loving decisions in daily life, which result in reduced suffering for both themselves and other living beings.
Of course, people can be a disappointment. We are bombu beings; foolish creatures, ensnared by the poisons of greed, anger, and ignorance. As a result, we act in ways that are harmful to ourselves and those around us; contrary to the inherent enlightenment that we all possess.
But all is not lost. We have a name for this type of behavior in Buddhism, it’s called being sick. And Buddha provided us with the cure 2,600 years ago when he gave his first lecture in Deer Park.
By teaching us the Three Marks of Existence, The Four Noble Truths and The Eightfold Path, Buddha laid out a framework, which provides relief from suffering. It’s a long and difficult journey, but if we’re brave enough to walk the path, we get in touch with our spiritual default setting which is good and pure.
When we practice Buddhism, we awaken to our true nature, we return home.
In this way, there is nothing new that must be attained.
We don’t need to fix ourselves, or feel guilty about past mistakes. It’s enough to simply take our daily medicine (e.g. seated meditation, chanting, sutra study, etc.), so that our good spiritual health is restored and maintained.
That’s the real beauty of this practice. We can go home anytime we want, to a place within us of peace and loving-kindness.
Buddha has provided the path, all we have to do is walk.
Dorothy: Oh, will you help me? Can you help me?
Glinda: You don’t need to be helped any longer. You’ve always had the power to go back to Kansas.
Dorothy: I have?
Scarecrow: Then why didn’t you tell her before?
Glinda: She wouldn’t have believed me. She had to learn it for herself.
Scarecrow: What have you learned, Dorothy?
Dorothy: Well, I—I think that it, that it wasn’t enough just to want to see Uncle Henry and Auntie Em—and it’s that—if I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with! Is that right?
Glinda: That’s all it is!
Scarecrow: But that’s so easy! I should’ve thought of it for you –
Tin Man: I should have felt it in my heart –
Glinda: No, she had to find it out for herself. Now those magic slippers will take you home in two seconds!
~ The Wizard of Oz
Editor: Dana Gornall