Happy Birthday To Me


I’ve recited the words so many times thinking I understood what I was saying then suddenly, as I lay in bed saying them first thing this March 25th I really did see what they mean.

It’s like we see the moon when it’s full, then we use a telescope and that’s an entirely different experience.  

“As all the conquerors and their offspring of the past 
Resolved to reach the unsurpassed supreme enlightenment
I will also reach the state of Buddhahood
To benefit my mother beings equal to space.”

Enlightenment is when what my senses perceive is no longer distorted by my concepts and emotions. It’s when I am aware of everything just as it is. 

Then, when my awareness is entirely unobstructed, I can behave as a Buddha. No selfishness. No acting on ideas. Just acting kindly, doing what truly helps. 

What a wonderful birthday experience.

I’ve written about birthdays before. It strikes me now that they celebrate a separation. March 25  is when my body separated from my mother’s in 1944. April 20 is when in 1970 it separated from its birthplace, England. March 25 this year is when my mind separated from another of its veils. 

When I was introduced to the poetry of William Blake in High School I knew immediately that he saw reality more clearly than anyone I’d encountered before. “The universe in a grain of sand”. But what did he see and how had it happened?

I read other mystics, Christian, Muslim, Hindu and more. They were all seeing the same thing but I was no closer to seeing it myself. I read Gurdjieff, Ouspensky and more. I was going to need a teacher but how to find one, especially one I would be willing to follow?  And it all seemed incompatible with earning a living, anyway, which was my growing worry.  

I was very lucky to stumble into the computer world soon after I left school and I enjoyed almost forty years doing all kinds of things there. It was only when I left it and began trekking in the mountains of Nepal that I resumed my spiritual quest. 

By then I was no longer searching for a different experience of reality. My goal for several years had been to transcend my selfishness. Now I wanted to understand if spiritual practices accounted for the gentle, respectful and cheerful culture I saw in the mountains and if so, I wanted to do those practices. 

I was not mistaken about the positive impact of the spiritual practices but it took me several years to find a teacher, then several years of doing the practices before I noticed any change. 

I was able to continue because I’d found a teacher who is a compelling role model as well as a very practical guide. He is encouraging or fierce depending on what I need at different times and he is very specific about what I must do. 

My glimpse of the enlightenment that enables Buddhahood is something I will likely only ever glimpse.  But as I continue to identify and shed my concepts and habitual emotions I will glimpse it more often and act more often with kindness. 

For as long as I live I must keep practicing because emotional habits and the stories going with them that make us act violently, lustfully or with cruel indifference have very deep roots.  

This year’s birthday gift continues to inspire me as I keep stumbling on toward Buddhahood. 

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