Monday, January 6, 2014

The bodhisattva's tears

I've been thinking about emotion and awakening.  During the period when I was waking up, I'd go to satsang dry eyed, but I'd always be crying by the end.  Sometimes I cried all the way through, from the time I sat down.  Some people probably thought this was weird, but what was happening inside was too important for me to worry about what others thought.  I never could really pin down what the tears were about except that they seemed to correspond to some kind of opening in me.

The other night I was watching a program of Tony Bennett singing duets with other well-known singers and I found tears in my eyes.  The songs were mostly love songs and the singing was beautiful.  Were these tears coming from the same place?

I ask this because my inclination has always been to demean the latter kind of tears as just "emotional."  The tears sitting in front of my teacher at satsang came, I imagined, from a truer place.  Now I'm wondering.

I think there are bodhisattvas who are portrayed as having a tear on their cheek.  Such a tear represents compassion for humanity.  But what is compassion?  Is it, as we often assume, akin to pity?  Is it hope that suffering humanity will get with the program and wake up?  I DON'T THINK SO.

Now, suddenly, I see anew the idea that a bodhisattva is one who has reached the door to enlightenment but turns back and vows not to enter nirvana until all are enlightened.  This is not a choice made out of self-sacrifice but one made out of the realization that to live this life as an awake being is the very best choice that can be made -- because when life is looked at from the awake perspective, the kind of suffering that comes from needing things to be different disappears. One doesn't shed a tear because people are suffering and need to change but in appreciation of the bounty that life is -- and the bounty now also includes sorrow and longing and desire and everything that one experiences, each moment.