By Kellie Schorr
“How I Started…” is a series of articles sponsored by The Tattooed Buddha to trace the beginnings of our authors’ unique journeys.
I am Vajrayogini.
Red in body, I hold a hook knife to cut away worldly attachments in one hand and a skull cup in the other. Powerful, compassionate, full of fire and wisdom, I dance in the face of the trials of this world and my own mind, which are often the same. I have no doubts, no fears, and no questions. Empowered, I tame demons and set the path to enlightenment for all to see.
For a moment, just a moment, I am ablaze with transformation.
Then it’s done and like a flash of lightning I’m suddenly Kellie Schorr, a 54-year-old writer with graying hair and sore joints sitting in an office full of Batman posters, comic books and collectables. I put away my vajra, drum and bell, then bow and sit down in front of a computer to start my day. How did a mild-mannered word herder like me end up practicing Vajrayana-–-the thunderbolt of Buddhism?
It all started with a man dressed like a bat.
The Saint of My Age
The moment I learned what a saint was, from a little Catholic girl in my P.E. class who asked me to hold her St. Anthony medal while she played kickball, I burned with jealousy. She had someone with more definition than the sky God and his son; someone that she could talk to, pray to, ask for things, and believe in. She had a saint! I had a non-religious family, weekend chores and whatever sport was played on Sunday afternoons.
One day, my mother dragged me to the beauty shop but decided a chat with the ladies would be more fun without her nine-year-old daughter listening to every word. She gave me five whole dollars and sent me across the street to the Woolworth store. I was supposed to buy a Coke and wait for her. There was a comic book rack not far from the door. I never made it to the soda counter.
My only exposure to comics had been Richie Rich, Top Cat (feline Richie Rich), Wendy the Good Witch (female Richie Rich), and Casper the Friendly Ghost (dead Richie Rich). But that day, the comic I saw was a man with a cape and cowl, swinging from a building with a villain dangling precariously from one gloved hand. The helpless citizens below cheered as the evil-doer was being spirited to jail by the Batman. I stood there at the rack reading comic after comic, picking a few of my favorites to take home. That little Catholic girl could have her medallion. By the time my mom was set and dried, I had a saint.
More than Flesh and Stronger than Bone
Batman represented everything I needed when I was the resident of my own private hellish Gotham. Chaotic adults as tall as skyscrapers, but not anywhere as predictable, were frequently collapsing on top of me. There were so many supervillains in my growing years. A creative writing teacher who used public ridicule as a form of critique was my Joker, setting me up for failure with a smile and way too much lipstick on her face. A neighbor who sat in his lawnchair holding a Budweiser while openly leering at my young body when I washed the car or mowed the lawn seemed as haplessly disgusting as the Penguin. Carmine Falcone, the dark city’s mob boss, had nothing on Tracy, head of my school’s local mean girls.
Still, from episode to episode, I managed to emerge wiser and more able, because I knew the Batman.
Cowled and grouchy, Batman stood up for people who didn’t have the money, power, or strength to stand up for themselves. He fought to bring justice to a world where it was lacking. He had good grammar and great teeth. He was generous, smart and confident. He was the model I needed and confirmation that your whole wardrobe really could be made of black, blue and gray. He wasn’t “just a guy” (as the classic superhero conversation states). He was an athletically endowed, healthy, intellectually gifted kazillionaire, but he used it all for the sake of others.
In the most lonely, needful times of my life—when the only person I could count on to be the hero I needed was myself—I looked inside and found Batman.
Yes, I know, Batman isn’t “real.” Thank goodness! He is so much more than that. He is an idea, a spirit of determination, a generous mentor, and a strangely compassionate vigilante who does things others cannot, and keeps fighting even when the villains have bigger crews and better gadgets. He is more than flesh, and stronger than bone. He is a visualization of when pain, grief, and action combine and the power than can result from that compound.
Like many American Buddhists I started my path at a buffet of delights. A little meditation here, some sutras there, a pop-culture self-help book or two, and some room on the plate for mantras. When I was ready to leave Do-It-Yourself Buddhism and follow a more formal path of understanding, I came up empty.
Then I heard a teacher talk about the three vehicles—Mahayana, Theravada, and Vajrayana. She said, “Vajrayana is built off of the other two but adds the elements of mysticism, visualization and embodied practice. It is known as the Indestructible Vehicle or the Thunderbolt Vehicle.”
My heart began pounding as I consumed everything I could read about the world of Vajrayana. This vehicle was my spiritual Batmobile and it would encourage me to peel off the layers of my fictive self and entrapped identity, if only for a few moments, and exist as compassionate action.
After a lifetime of watching Martha Wayne’s pearls fall tragically to the grime-covered street and seeing her son rise from that moment, peeling through the layers of pain and anger, Vajrayana Buddhism gave me a path to do the same. It showed me the way of the Bodhisattva, where I, too, can take what power, wisdom and privilege I have and use it for the sake of others.
When I need an Alfred, it gives me wise guides like Guru Rinpoche, Yeshe Tsogyal, and Longchenpa. When the world is collapsing in fire and ice, in lies and injustice, in pain and despair, it allows me to leave the offices of Bruce Wayne, go into the cave of my centered being, and emerge with equanimity.
At any given moment, I am a professional writer, comic collector, wife, friend, and Buddhist.
In other moments:
I‘m Tara, compassionate liberator.
I’m Vajrasattva, generous purifier.
I’m Vajrayogini, powerful Dakini spirit.
Editor: Dana Gornall
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