by Wayne Ren-Cheng
A student asked, “Is Buddha-element easy to find?”
“Then why should I put in the effort to find it?”
That led to a tale.
There was a road that led to a magnificent castle. The people of the kingdom used the road to get to that castle where they could sell their produce, their wares and get what they needed to live. It was a rough road made even more treacherous by a large rock directly in the middle of it.
Horses were made lame by stumbling on it. Wagon wheels shattered when they bumped against it. People who climbed over it would fall breaking legs, arms and sometimes heads. It made a trip to the market a challenge.
One day a family of farmers headed into the castle to sell their wagon load of vegetables stopped before the rock. Ahead of them a wagon had lost a wheel to the rock. The tipped over wagon had spilled melons across the ground, some cracked open and others bruised beyond use.
In the farmer’s wagon a young girl turned to her father and said, “Father, why is that rock allowed to remain there? It causes so much anger and loss, still no one tries to move it.”
“Daughter, it has always been there and there it will remain.”
The girl wasn’t satisfied with that. She dropped from the wagon seat and stepped over to the rock. Kneeling down she began digging away the dirt from around the rock. For hours she labored, her hands were bleeding and she kept digging. Finally she tied a rope to the rock and heaved with all her strength. At first the rock did not budge. She adjusted her grip on the rope and hauled even harder.
The rock shuddered, dirt sliding away and then suddenly came free and rolled to the side of the road. A broad smile came across the girls face. She then saw that she had uncovered something at the bottom of the hole. There was leather bag. Opening it she found it full of gold coins. Enough gold coins to give her family a better life.
Later she found out that the king himself had put that rock in place. He had put the bag of gold under it with the idea that anyone who was willing to put forth the effort should have their life changed.
Like the young girl’s family Buddhists are farmers too. A Buddhist weeds the unwholesome from their bodymind and sows the seeds of wholesome thoughts and behaviors. To do that one has to dig around in some metaphorical dirt. And, like any plot of dirt there are rocks that get in the way. Those rocks can conceal the causal roots of hindrances such as greed, hatred and delusion. One may pull out the weed of hatred and miss the root of that disposition hidden under that rock. Like a pernicious weed in a vegetable garden springs up again from a root left behind so too can anger, or other hindrances sprout again in the bodymind.
There can come a moment when a practitioner pulls a rock from the soil of the bodymind and experiences the enlightened moment that comes with the discovery of their Buddha-element. Buddha-element within each human being is like that bag of gold concealed under a rock. With commitment and effort to move that rock that Buddha-element can change one’s life just like a bag of gold.
Buddha recognized that life can be hard. He realized that all human beings suffer. There are habitual reactivities, hindrances that are buried deep in the bodymind waiting to be revealed. One can spend their life suffering the damage they do to self and others or, one can spend their life avoiding them. Both of those choices seem easier than striving to transform themselves.
The young girl experienced suffering along with so many other people on that road. She experienced that people wanted things to be better, they hoped the rock would be gone the next time they traveled the road. Rather than taking action to remove it; they chose to suffer. Looking at her own hands and knowing that she had inner strength and resolve the young girl realized it was her responsibility to strive for a better life. She chose to see the rock differently, not as a hindrance but as a challenge. She questioned why the rock was allowed to remain in the road. The girl took it upon herself to transform her family’s circumstances and in doing so, the circumstances of many others. She didn’t let tired and bleeding hands deter her from her goal. Achieving that goal not only transformed her life and the life of her family. It would go on to transform many other lives as well.
The Buddha-element within each human being is like that bag of gold. Buddha-element can change one’s life just like a bag of gold. The realization of one’s Buddha-element does not only affect the individual. It becomes the cause of compassion, generosity and acceptance that, like a net, gathers in all those who come in contact with it.
Habitual reactivities, the habits and dispositions that one acts upon even when after the recognition that they have negative, unwholesome effects, are like that rock. Their size and weight seem intimidating and too difficult to change. Over time it appears that leaving them in place is easier than making the effort . . . and it does take effort . . . to move them.
Many seek instant gratification. They avoid what might take time to achieve. They go around or over the rock in the road even when the sides of road are muddy and treacherous, or hitting the rock will irrevocably damage them.
Digging away the causal conditioning that caused such thought and action takes time and effort. It takes a different paradigm of how to see experiences and how to respond to them. There is a gradual process to transformation though, like the rock suddenly coming loose of the ground holding it, when it happens it might seem like it happened in an instant.