I had a recent dream about a mass shooting in which several people died and many more were injured. After the shooter was arrested, I went to talk with him. At the end of the conversation, he looked straight into my eyes and said, “I am of Buddha, too. What do you think of that?”
When I thought about this dream a few days later, I remembered the 1977 BBC documentary “Land of the Disappearing Buddha,” in which narrator Ronald Eyre journeys to find Buddha. The section that interested me takes place in Tokyo where septuagenarian Zen Master Omori Sogen first did a calligraphy and then a sword demonstration.
Everything Is One
Eyre, Omori Roshi and his translator/student then sit down for a discussion, during which Eyre asks the Zen Master, “Who is the Buddha?”
Pointing to himself, Omori Roshi answers, “I am Buddha.” Eyre is briefly taken aback until Omori points to Eyre, the translator, the floor and his wooden sword and answers: Everything is Buddha: us, heaven, earth, trees, birds, dogs. All are Buddha. Buddha is inside, not outside, he continues. Zazen, or sitting meditation, leads us to make the discovery of our Buddha nature. That, Omori Roshi, says, is the Principle of Buddhism: Everything is One .
How can these totally different things be the same?
This is a tough question to answer: Words can’t adequately explain. Instead, they’re like the proverbial finger pointing to the moon: Whatever the explanation, it can only point to the real thing; it’s not the real thing.
To know the Real Thing requires your personal experience.
For now, all I can say is, let’s assume what Omori Roshi said is true: Everything and everyone is One, and that One is this Buddha nature. Then just what is this Buddha nature?
Everything Still Exists
Probably the most common synonym for Buddha Nature is Emptiness. Not the Emptiness of a pitcher that once held water that has now been poured out. It’s an Emptiness that contains everything. And it is this Emptiness that is one.
What?! Maybe this will help: Imagine if all things in the Universe were white. Can you see any one thing? You can’t, right? Everything still exists, but you just can’t “see” it. That’s the kind of Emptiness we’re talking about.
Let Me Sleep
So, getting back to where we started with the mass shooter of my dream... When he posed the question: What did I think of him saying he is of Buddha, I knew that as much as I disliked his actions, there was no difference between the essence of him and me: We both had Buddha Nature; we both were Empty.
Now, all I can say is: Get out my dreams already and let me sleep!