Enlightenment is messy. You know, the Buddha didn't just become the Buddha in one instant. This mantra didn't just manifest, four our benefit, out of the thin air. It took many, many moments of practice, and trial and error. It took many, many life times, years, [and] moments of suffering, and of learning through suffering, and learning how one causes oneself suffering.
That is true for all of us—it's true for Shakyamuni Buddha, the historical Buddha from 2,600 years ago, he didn't just become the Buddha [ChiSing: snaps fingers] like that. There were many, many lifetimes before that life time, and many years during that lifetime, of searching, and wondering, and being unsure, and trying to find teachers, and not being satisfied, and then trying out different methods (like starving himself, which didn't work), and [then] finally realizing the path; then enlightenment, and then realizing that it needs to be shared.
According to the story there was a moment, after the Buddha's enlightenment, that he wasn't sure that anyone would understand what he had to share. Maybe no one would get it. He thought then that the best thing to do was just to be silent until I die. But thank goodness—that's not we he did. Other beings came to him, and showed him a panorama of the history of the world and of the world at that time. Saying, see there are certain people who can understand, and can teach it and can share it, and there will be so many who'll benefit from it centuries after you. So please, don't be silent. Say something. So, the Buddha did—thank goodness, but it took him many years to figure out the best ways to teach different kinds of people. That's why he taught for so many years; with so many different methods, and so many different teachings. To find just what would be right, for each kind of person.
That's also our story. That is also my story. As I was meditating today, I didn't know what to share today—I mean I knew I was going to share about the Medicine Buddha mantra, but other than that, I didn't really know what to talk about. Then as I was meditating, it was if the angels just [ChiSing: laughs] washed into my mind all memories of my childhood and teenage years, and young adult years. I really tried hard not to break out laughing, as I thought about all these different things. [ChiSing: laughs] I was quite a mischievous person, in my younger years. [Audience: laughs] And I realized that I miss that part of me, sometimes.
I remember one time, about twelve, thirteen, fourteen years ago. I begged my parents to let me borrow their mini van, and I just took off with it for three months—across the country. I just stayed at different places, along the way. I went to different forests, and national parks, New York City, Manhattan, and other places, and I loved it—it was great. I had no one to tell me what to do. I had no schedule…and I just felt so free, and it felt so good. Just to get away, and to just drive without knowing where I was going, and just to meet people; all kinds of crazy, interesting people. Some people were very gracious people too.
I also remember, the first time I went to Plum Village; in the year 2001, or 2000. Just enjoying—I hope someday that all of you can get a chance to go to Plum Village or to one of the monasteries of Thitch Nhat Hanh, or at least a retreat with Thitch Nhat Hanh—even if it's not at the monastery. I really hope that for you. I remember how good it felt to be so relaxed, and to be carried by others people schedule; the monastic schedule, and not have to worry about where I am going to eat. Not to worry about when I am supposed to go to sleep. Not to worry about the schedule—because the schedule is already there and made for me, and for all of us. It's so wonderful just to flow into the schedule, and to just follow the schedule.
It's interesting, these two different/opposite things, no schedule and having a schedule—but they were both so wonderful for me, and gave me a sense of ease, and freedom. But of course, I was always the mischievous one. I was supposed to sleep in my dorm room, but I didn't like my dorm room so I would just sleep, on a mat, on the floor in front of the book store at night. The younger monks didn't care, and they would just laugh and say oh there, he's a cat. You know, "he's like a cat". [Audience: laughs] I don't know what Vietnamese word that they'd use, but, you know, "oh there's the cat practitioner"; because I was like a cat, I just slept in the little corner, or whatever, and just made my own bed—it just felt freer. I wasn't confined in a room with other snoring people. The older monks disapproved, and so the scolded me. [Audience: laughs]. "You should go to your dorm room—you're not allowed to just sleep anywhere you want." So, "okay".
Then, of course, I remember going out into the sunflower fields, and kissing someone and then making out. [ChiSing: laughs] Which was against the rules; you know. [Audience: laughs] But there were so many beautiful sunflowers. [Audience: laughs]
I was just a little bit mischievous; a little rebellious. I just started to remember, all these different times, when I was just free. I was just being myself, and I remember how good it felt. I realized that person is still inside of me— and I can always access that free-spirited ChiSing. I can remember, and access that even when I am an adult, and even when I have adult responsibilities, and even when I have adult things that I need to do and get done, for the benefit of other beings. But I don't want to ever be that adult ChiSing in such a way that I forget that young, youthful, mischievous, rebellious ChiSing. I want to make sure I keep him alive in me, and to remember that—that part is always a precious and beautiful part of me, it's always there and that I don't, ever, need to allow all of the accumulations or responsibilities and "adultness" to completely destroy that.
It is an integration process isn't it? We can't just be adults, because that would be very, very "too serious". We can't just be the free-spirited youth, either. Then we're not living up to our responsibilities as beings on the path to enlightenment. So integration is about realizing (hopefully, through the help of many beings like psychotherapists; etcetera) how to integrate the two so that they're not opposed, but that they work together—and that's our process, isn't it? That was the Buddha's process, that's my process, that's your process.
Today, I'm going to just symbolically take off my outer robes here. To symbolize that I don't want to ever to forget, that underneath all of the responsibilities, and all of the teachings, and all of the roles that I play—to forget that I'm still ChiSing. I'm still that rebellious, mischievous, young adult. That likes to play, and who just wants to be me. So let's pray that I can be that, and be responsible at the same time. That is our journey, to be integrated.
In the spirit of that, I will at least put on my white khata—even if I have no robes on. [ChiSing: laughs]. So that is our journey that is our process; this is what it means to be Medicine Buddha. I am you, and you are me. We are all reflections of one another. So when I share my story, it's just another way of expressing your story, and when we read about the story of an enlightened being like the Buddha or the buddhas—it's not about them. It's a reflection back to us to remember it's our story.
So whatever Shakyamuni Buddha went through in his life, it's a template, a journey, which reflects back to us, our own journey. And so every time you share your story with someone, that is a beautiful, precious jewel because you are sharing the gift of your self with them—which is really the gift of "them selves". You are reminding them that we are all in this together, and this is our story. It's not his story and it's not her story. It's our story.
So let's make up a new word in the dictionary: "our story".
Amitabha! [Audience: Amitabha!]