My friend has lost her new husband, whom she loves with all her heart. This was a deep and extraordinary marriage of the heart. Suddenly it is gone. What can I say?
We held a little informal memorial, at a chapel in the Black Forest. It was a moving occasion. It touched a deep place of feeling and understanding in me. I felt and feel the honour of sharing so intimate a moment.
Here I am trying to unfold a few thoughts that came in the chapel, as night was falling, and candle-flame cast its shadows around us.
I'm happy to say a few halting words, shyly.
The man who died was a student of Buddhism. That is the context within which I need to say something. In my own relation to Buddhist tradition, I connect most centrally with the Jodoshinshu - the people of the pure faith tradition within Pure Land Buddhism. In this tradition there are no masters, because every person is seen equally as "a foolish being".
So I can say a few words, just as one foolish being to another.
My friend is beautiful in her sadness, in her devotion, in the flowering of her tenderness. Her black black hair, her softness of body. Something farouche, something wild and free, strong and unvanquished, emerges from that sadness. Now I shall speak directly to her.
Yes, you are lucky. Of course. Luck can be a painful thing. So much love, and so cruelly torn from you.
Yes, for you he is a bodhisattva. He is there before you, a living embodiment of the buddha. He reminds you all day long of impermanence and suffering. He awakens you to the joy and pain of other feeling beings.
Also (though this is getting heavy) - in his constant thereness, he is and is not you: in this way he undermines the illusion of separate self, and leads you towards some deep penetration, some perception and experience of sunyata, of insubstantiality and interbeing.
It's probably best to avoid thinking about this: to let experience naturally become non-solid, through being and living the process of being in him and with him, through having him continually there before you, and allowing something self-generating to happen in that space....
Of course, he was and is a "foolish being". To be human is to go on being imperfect. He can be truly a guide for you in the spiritual life - that doesn't in any way mean that we have to make him ideal, to strip him of his imperfection and humanity.
And yes, to have a bodhisattva brings its own responsibility. As you said, you go to do something.... and then you can't. Something rebels, for sure.... but still, you can't act as the person you were. There is an alchemy of souls foregathered.
In the magic, the chemistry of your meeting, your being in the world is renewed.
In the magic, the chemistry of your meeting, the world is renewed.
I see no reason to expect there to be any end to this process.
I see every reason to expect it to be demanding, as well as being deeply fulfilling.
To have that natural upsurging of responsibility sets limits to some kind of self. It comes between you and certain habitual or familiar ways of being in the world.
To have that natural upsurging of responsibility opens up a vast new freedom of being in the world. It transcends boundaries of gender, place and culture. It enlarges the imaginative response to mortality and suffering, to the joy and difference of others.
My dear friend, I am quite shocked at my willingness to speak like a person who knows. What I've just quickly written is merely a few words of nonsense. A gesture of friendship from a foolish being.
"....time to fall
is time to float
for a lotus blossom...."
Truly, I feel your lover as a lotus blossom.
I wish the two of you well in your journey together both in this world and in the world beyond....
6th May 2003
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