In some place the number of the infected and those who have died from the virus is increasing. In all countries, some lockdown has been lifted, yet it seems that it is not the time yet for all restrictions to be lifted. Thus it is up to us to stay centered and polish our wisdom.
In Japan, even the traditional celebration on the day of children could not take place. It was not a day where the children could truly be celebrated and enjoy their day. We receive the wisdom of the ancients which keeps us grounded when anxiety is about to take over. Just like the story in the Vimalakirti sutra, Vimalakirti was being greeted when he was sick, yet nowadays because of the worry of infection, even close family members are not allowed to greet the sick and old. This is very difficult to accept. So how can we support those in need, those who are close to us?
Vimalakirti was a great supporter of the Buddha, and Vimalakirti got sick by taking on the sickness of society. Naturally all those people who had received support by Vimalakirti, wanted to visit and greet him now that he was sick. When the visitors come, it is again Vimalakirti who is giving them wisdom in return. That was the reason he got sick, so that he would have the chance to teach his visitors.
Many people came to visit him, from politicians to military leaders, common folks and monks – many different types of people came who had received support by Vimalakirti. When they entered the room, they were asked by Vimalakirti: “What is your purpose of life, your direction in life? I am thankful for your visit, yet the I of today maybe the you of tomorrow. You will not always be healthy either. We can not imagine the worry and anxiety of when we are sick. Why do we get anxious? Because we have not clearly set our direction in life. What is the purpose of us being alive? We all have been born to awaken to our true nature. “
It can be said that animals are alive to eat and create off spring. Yet for us as humans, we cannot leave it at that. Our value lies in awakening to the wisdom which pierces through past, present and future. For us to experience this, we need to be certain about our direction in life. What are we? Do we know this?
Vimalakirti continues: “I am bed ridden now. How about if you were in this situation, would you then be able to awaken to the truth? Please while you are healthy, even one day sooner, awaken to your true being. Know clearly the value of your own existence. Know clearly the purpose of humans being alive on this planet. How can we all life in harmony and happiness together? Please reflect upon this and bring forth your wisdom.” In this way, Vimalakirti gave each visitor the sense of necessity to search within.
Now in the times of corona, we cannot simply fall into anxiety, but we need to reflect deeply, who am I? Have we experienced our true life´s purpose? The virus is teaching us that we never know what will happen next. There is the need to awaken even one day sooner to the truth. There is no meaning in just living and then finally dying. But to know ones true value, this is what we are being taught now.
The Buddha asked his desciples and the bodhisattvas to go and greet Vimalakirti, yet everyone refused knowing that Vimalakirti´s wisdom has shown them their unrealized mind before. Finally the Buddha asked Monjusri to go and greet Vimalakirti. Monjusri replied: “However great my wisdom may be, it does not reach that of Vimalakirti. I am not at all in a position to greet him, only because you are requesting me to go, I shall go in your place.”
That is the point. When we move according to our own thoughts, there are things we manage to accomplish yet others not. If we move not from our own strength but from the strength of the Buddha, we are able to take on a lot and respond from a deep place of wisdom. If we only think about what we need to do, what our position and responsibility is, that is important of course, but then we at certain times get attached and confused because we move from a place of self.
Rather receiving strength from a greater power and not acting from the belief, that this is our own life, we can work for others in society, we can face true challenges and move through them. We can see the pain and sickness of others and support them. This is just a slight change in how we look upon ourselves, this is our wisdom.
The same is true for myself. I do not think of myself to be travelling to different countries to teach, but rather that I want to do the work which Mumon Roshi was not able to do, and thus I am doing my teaching work for him. I am not moving from a personal position. My own energy and wisdom is of no great matter, yet when I face the many questions of my students, if I were acting from a personal self, there would be no liberating answer possible. If I were travelling from a personal wish, I might even get tired by the travels. But it is not a personal self that is moving. It is the wisdom of Mumon Roshi working through me.
No matter how tiring a work may be, no matter how great the pressure is that is being put on me, I never once thought that this pressure is being put on myself. That is why I am able to do that which I normally cannot do. I have been travelling to teach my students for 30 years now, not taking a break in between, I continue. If it were my small self, I could not do this. But because I am acting representing Mumon Roshi, thus this is possible. It becomes very light and easy.
This wisdom is what we all can use, not moving from a small self and thus letting go of that pressure on oneself. You may think that it is a very irresponsible way of living. That is not how it is. I do take responsibility. But these situations have been given to me, they came to me, thus I naturally respond to them. I do not experience the feeling of giving up. This wisdom given by Vimalakirti is important.
When we meet another person, when we come from a position of a self, many misunderstandings and confusion may arise. For example when we go and visit a sick person. If this person will get well, then this visit is still an easy one. Yet if this person will not heal and will die, when there is nothing that can help anymore, what can we say to such a person? This is difficult to know.
But if we go not as a small personal self into a situation like this, when we know we are a greater power, then there is no pressure, and a wide view comes about where we can encounter the other person with a huge, wide mind.
Vimalakirti say: “Go and greet someone without the awareness of going and greeting. Do not perceive myself as being sick and in pain, but see myself as a complete person, as a person free from sickness. This is how Monjusri was able to come and greet me.”
If we only see from our own position when we meet another, we easily put pressure onto that person. This is not true greeting of a sick person. The other may be in bed, thus bring a wide and huge mind with you. This does not mean to ignore that the other is sick and to only stay with one´s own happiness, but rather not adding your own heaviness and worry, becoming one with the other person. These efforts bring forth great wisdom. Our huge state of mind is needed here, this is the wisdom of the ancients. Each and every one of us has this chance to not put pressure onto others, to share this huge human mind. Please look carefully at this.