Yesterday, as I watched the march in Washington and listened to the speakers commemorating the 50th anniversary of Marin Luther King's "I have a Dream" speech, I thought to myself, "It's been 50 years, and he still lives."
As I observed the events in Washington yesterday, I noted that many were reciting the "I have a Dream" speech as if they were quoting scripture. I observed the hordes of people displaying Dr. King's picture on placards and signs; some were chanting his name. The politicians and preachers were stirring up the crowds, prodding them to keep the dream alive and continue Dr. King's work for justice and peace. It's been 50 years since that speech. Martin Luther King was assassinated decades ago, and yet he still lives.
As I watched the unfolding events in the nation's capitol yesterday, I had two thoughts. First of all, I was overwhelmed by the life-changing effect one simple, single life can have upon the entire world and upon history in general. My second thought was: "how did he do it?' What did he do or say that lit a fire that would literally change the world? I concluded that Dr. King discovered his "Christ-nature" -his "Buddha nature" - a nature inherent in every human being. Martin King became "the Christ," He became "the Buddha," and he changed the world.
There is a wisdom saying attributed to the Buddha:
You only lose what you cling to
As I see it, the secret to finding the Christ/Buddha potential in the human spirit lies in an acceptance of this great wisdom. Martin Luther King Jr. was able to give his life away because he wasn't afraid to lose it. He wasn't afraid to lose it because he didn't cling to it.
And so, they could burn down his house and he still went on preaching. They locked him in a prison cell; and when he was released he went on to the streets of Selma and Montgomery, putting himself in peril marching for the human rights of the marginalized and oppressed. As he became more and more popular he became a lighting-rod, and he knew full-well that every single time he stood before a crowd he faced the risk of being gunned-down. Yet he continued to stand before those crowds and continued to boldly proclaim the cause of justice.
One of my favorite speeches of Dr.King was the one he gave on the night before he was assassinated in Memphis. It was as if he knew his life was soon to end as he told the assembled crowd that he had "been to the mountaintop and seen the other side." He told the crowds that he wasn't going to go with them to the Promised Land - his work was done, but they would surely get there. He was boldly fearless that night before he was killed. He had nothing to lose because he wasn't clinging to anything. This is what happens when you find your "Christ nature," your "Buddha nature"
A few months ago I visited the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington. I remember thinking how awesome it all was. I also remember thinking that the memorial made Martin Luther King Jr. seem "larger than life." I remember looking at all the people at that memorial -gazing at Dr. King's towering statue, reading excerpts from his speeches engraved on granite plaques, and thinking to myself. "He was an ordinary person, just like me and just like all those people "worshiping" at that memorial shrine. He had his faults and made his share of mistakes; but he also took the risk of allowing himself to become "fully human." He became the Christ; he became the Buddha. He wasn't afraid of losing anything because he didn't cling to anything.
As we celebrate this 50th anniversary of Dr. King's famous speech, I want to do more than remember Martin Luther King Jr. - I want to be like him.