Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Buddhas Point the Way

"Pointing Toward a Trail"
-in a wilderness canyon-

Yesterday, Pope Francis was named Time Magazine's, "Man of the Year," recognizing the significant influence he has had not only on the Roman Catholic Church, but also upon the world in general. 

In an essay explaining why Francis was chosen for this honor, the magazine editor listed several qualities of the Pope that has made him so laudable on the world stage.

Francis has become a "voice of conscience" for the world community. He stands with the poor and is a voice for the voiceless, promoting the cause of justice and dignity for every human being.  He kisses a disfigured man, washes the feet of a prisoner, and says that he will not judge persons because they are Gay.

Francis is also a reconciler. With humility rather than arrogance, he brings together those who are in opposition - voicing respect for the wisdom of believers of different religious traditions, sitting down in a heartfelt dialogue with a well-known atheist.

Francis is also a warrior in the cause of justice. He has spoken out in bold opposition to governments and economic systems that engage in the"idolatry of money," using power and riches to oppress the poorest and most fragile in the society.

Francis is also "lighthearted," a strong man with a sense humor and a sprit of merriment underlying his lofty papal position. 

Finally, Time Magazine chose Pope Francs because he is "stirring up the pot" and getting opposition to what he is saying and doing - "It's been a long time since we have seen a public figure who is clear and bold enough to disturb people." Francis has been called a Marxist and labelled as a dangerous subversive. 

As I carefully read the reasons for Time Magazine choosing Pope Francis, it all sounded so familiar to me. Then I realized I had just heard some very similar things being said just a few days ago in the tributes and speeches about Nelson Mandela - a voice of conscience for the world, an advocate for the oppressed, a reconciler, a warrior in the cause of justice, strong yet humble and "merry" in all the circumstances of life, attacked and persecuted because of his boldness and courage.

In the Buddhist tradition, someone who has achieved "enlightenment" is called a "Buddha." A Buddha is someone who has discovered a path in life that leads to deep peace.  They walk a way that leads to a meaningful life.

As I look at what has been said about Pope Francis and about Nelson Mandela, I realize that, over the past few days, the world has been recognizing "Buddhas" among us in our own day.

Back in 500 BC, Siddhartha Gautama (who is known as "The Buddha") wisely taught:

Everyone must strive.
The Buddhas only point the way.

There is an inherent danger in honoring someone like Pope Francis or memorializing Mandela, making them into a distant plaster saints. Recognizing these "Buddhas," ordinary people often think that they could never be be like any of them.  After all, one is the Pope, the other, the liberator of a nation and prominent world figure. 

However, Buddhas only point the way. We recognize Buddhas so that we can see the way they travel and then follow along the same the path - reconciliation, justice, mercy, opposition to oppression, humility not arrogance, merriment even in the hard times, attacked, perhaps imprisoned- maybe even crucified.

A path that leads to the way of peace!

Everyone must strive.
The Buddhas only point the way.

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1 comment:

  1. Its interesting because Pope Francis says that he will not judge people because they are gay, but then goes on to do just that. If he really was going to leave it to God to judge, then he would recognise the hurt that is done by the RC church on this issue, and marry two men or two women in one of his churches and see what happens. That way he could help to cease a major cause of disharmony in catholic families who have gay children (just like the one that I was born into). It is interesting to note that this disharmony lasts for years and is especially prevalent at this time of year. I think his actions speak louder than his words on this and on women's ordination too. I think that the last thing he could be accused of being is a Buddha - all the Buddhas are set on harmony - I think he's the latest in a long line of Maras (pathological controllers), but "who am I to judge the pope"? See, it's easy to simply say that you are not judging, but without the actions to back it up, it's just weasel words.

    Interesting blog. Thank you.