The Buddha is Still Teaching
The true Buddha isn’t limited to the body or mind of a particular person who lived long ago. He is present today, says Jack Kornfield, in teachers pointing the way to a timeless freedom.
teachings of the Buddha are called the Lion’s Roar, words of
fearlessness and unshakable freedom. On the night of his
enlightenment, the Buddha awakened to the vast and timeless peace of
nirvana. He proclaimed that the ropes of clinging and sorrow were
snapped, the clouds of confusion and fear dissipated, the powers of
aggression and doubt were defeated. He was silently and joyfully
forty-five years afterward, he wandered the dusty roads of India
proclaiming this freedom and teaching the path of wisdom and
compassion to all who had ears to hear. These teachings were
eventually written down as sutras, careful records of the teachings
of Buddha. These traditional texts include his instructions, his
dialogues with students, and accounts of his words pointing the way
to liberation. The earliest sutras date from more than twenty-five
hundred years ago, while others are teachings from the Buddha mind
written down by enlightened disciples in subsequent centuries.
words of the Buddha have great power. The ancient stories tell of
many who became enlightened simply by hearing him speak. Ananda, the
Buddha’s attendant, has depicted these teaching scenes for us,
describing how the monks and nuns were seated at the cool wood of
Tapoda or in Jivaka’s mango grove, or how a thousand followers were
gathered at Vulture Peak. As they listened to the Buddha, their
hearts were freed from entanglement in the changing conditions of the
world. Their understanding shifted from a limited sense of self,
caught in the illusion of separateness and clinging, to the peace of
nirvana, open and free. They tasted the joyful freedom experienced
when clinging, hatred, and ignorance drop away. Each time he taught,
the Buddha pointed the way to this timeless freedom.
the same way, the freedom taught by the Buddha is brought to life by
the teachers of awakening in modern times. When Zen Master Suzuki
Roshi first gave teachings on beginner’s mind, the hearts of many
of the students listening were opened to a freedom beyond past and
future. When the Dalai Lama took the teaching seat surrounded by
thousands of followers in New York’s Madison Square Garden, he
pointed the way to the same liberation and compassion as the Buddha.
When Sharon Salzberg and Pema Chödrön speak to crowds of students
on loving-kindness and compassion, the human suffering and sorrow of
all who listen, their conflicts and judgment, are all held in a vast
spaciousness of freedom that is our true nature.
makes these modern teachings authentic is the understanding that the
true Buddha is not limited to the body or mind of a particular man
who lived long ago. The Buddha himself explained this. In the ancient
sutras, there is a story of a devoted young monk who was so
enraptured that he spent weeks sitting at the feet of the Buddha,
simply gazing reverently at him as he taught. Finally the Buddha
chastised him, saying, “You do not even see me. To see the Buddha,
you must see the dharma, the truth. One who sees the dharma sees me.”
means both truth and the path to discover the truth. The dharma is
kept alive by all who follow the path. In the forest monasteries of
Asia, just before dawn, the monks and nuns gather in the Buddha hall
to meditate and to chant “ehipasiko, opanaiko, paccattang
veditabbho vinuhittii.” The dharma of liberation is “immediate,
open-handed, timeless, visible to the wise, to be experienced here
and now by each person in their own heart.” In every generation,
this invitation is repeated in an unbroken lineage of voices, a call
to live with the great freedom of a Buddha and to discover for
yourself the path of virtue, compassion, and wisdom.
from the Introduction to The Buddha Is Still Teaching:
Contemporary Buddhist Wisdom, by Jack Kornfield. Copyright 2010
by Jack Kornfield. Published by Shambhala Publications 2010. Adapted
with permission from Shambhala Publications. Click here for more info or to order the book.
From the November 2010 issue of the Shambhala Sun.