Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Average Boddhisattva

My first husband, M., was a cradle Buddhist, who liked to say that he had lost his faith because of an episode that took place at a childhood sleepover, when he was terrified by the sound of grandfather clock. and his supplications to the Buddha brought him no consolation. As an adult, however, he began exploring his childhood faith again, as I was to do later, and his second marriage was performed in a Buddhist ceremony. Around the time that he started attending Buddhist services again in the late 1990’s, while we were still married, a prominent Buddhist priest and scholar came to his temple to speak. At that talk, a fellow member of the sangha mentioned the freedom that came to her when she realized that she was just average; not a “special” person, as we all want to believe and are encouraged to believe we are, but just an average one with average abilities and average hopes and dreams. The prominent Buddhist speaker replied that he was filled with admiration for her, bowed to her, and called her an “average Boddhisattva.”

Nothing could have rubbed me more wrong than when M. told me this story. I think it bothered me so much because I found it so terrifying. I was “special,” after all, and had been brought up with a clear recognition of my special gifts and what I assumed were the privileges that came with them – privileges such as the right to fulfill my appetites and curiosities without regard for average rules and morals – and I was convinced that I must never descend to the everyday world of the average person. It took me a long time to recognize that I am more average than I care to admit. I think that I am one of the millions who do not live up to their early promise, and I don’t know whether that’s a tragedy of epidemic proportions based on massive failures of parenting and society, or simply part of the human experience in a fallen world. It’s taken me a string of failures and catastrophes in the realms of health, relationships, and career to recognize my averageness, and in a way I wish for more of it, because perhaps if I could embrace my averageness, I could have some peace, and then offer others kindness instead of bitterness, and perhaps even become an average Boddhisattva.

1 comment:

expat said...

This is a wonderful post! It's also something that I've been trying to come to grips with lately in my own life.

There *is* liberation in not having to be special, but it is terrifying as well. Who am I if I'm not anyone special?

I have been examining this issue in the light of the scripture, "Blessed are the poor in spirit". Spiritual poverty manifesting itself as just being average, nothing special, ordinary, invisible.

Can I really dare to come to the Lord totally empty-handed and aware that I do and am nothing extraordinary? Can I dare to have him love me in this total nakedness, having nothing to offer him?

I sit with this great question and it makes me shiver in terror and horror and it makes me tremble with the thrill of the possibilities.

Can this really be true??? Do I dare believe it? Can I muster up the courage to live this?

Thanks again for your searing thoughts!!