Sparkling rainbow colours
contained in their crystal prison,
awaiting a beam of light
to set them free.
I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t interested in other spiritual traditions. I’ve always believed that there is truth to be found in every path.
Whether we style ourselves Sufi, Christian, pagan, Jew, Muslim, atheist, whatever – the spiritual reality is that we are all called to something that is greater than the sum of its parts. What we name it, and how we follow it – these are another matter altogether; but there’s room in this universe for all of us, and we can all learn from one another.
From the solitary, happy days of early childhood, I’ve been aware that there’s more to the world than my eyes could see. It’s always there, hiding tantalizingly jut behind the gauze curtain that is the ordinary appearance of things….beckoning, luring me onward and inward.
So hard…so hard to capture it with mere words, which are themselves only labels; and it seems to me, from my present vantage point of years, that I’ve spent much of my life grasping at spiritual labels in an attempt to catch and hold that mystery, instead of simply learning how to live in the awareness.
I’ve always wanted a spiritual “home” for myself, a grounding point from which I could fly and to which I could return. After years of searching for that home (and not incidentally, working my way through two Christian traditions in the process), becoming a Buddhist thirteen years ago was a tremendous, life-changing step for me, much like falling in love.
I immersed myself in it with joy and dedication. It felt as though I had reached the pinnacle of my own personal journey. I had surely, finally, come home, and from that time my steps would follow those of the generations of Buddhists who had come before me.
Nowadays, it feels to me as though I’ve spent a great deal of time concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other, watching only the ground in front of me to make sure I’m on my “right” path through the woods – when suddenly I happen to stop, look up, and discover to my surprise and delight that I can actually see for miles around me, and what I see is a marvellous rainbow of colours on this new horizon!
“Home,” in a spiritual sense, seems to be widening again, for the third time in my life.
This time, though, there is a difference. I no longer feel any particular need to grasp at one path, no need to turn my back on what I’ve left behind, giving up the old in order to embrace the new.
Oh, there are certainly those moments when it’s unsettling to my everyday self to feel again the loosening of whatever glue it is that holds me to what I call my path – especially now that I’m part of this close-knit group of sangha brothers and sisters.
And yet, just when I would have thought I’d be overflowing with the need to immerse myself completely in this particular Buddhist tradition, I can feel myself standing back and looking at horizons both behind and before me, gathering in truths of many traditions and seeing them with new eyes.
Of course, change never seems to happen when you want it to, when you’re ready for it, or when the timing might be more appropriate. No, change happens when it must, I suppose, no matter the setting or the timing.
There is no sense of loss here though, because in fact I lose nothing! There’s only the feeling that perhaps this small interior blossoming is an integral part of a deep process that I’m only dimly aware of – that this is part of my spiritual life’s work, this expanding and expanding again.
And it’s evident in my own life, looking back again from the vantage point of years, that the heart really does stretch, and stretch, and stretch again to accommodate each expansion, filling with new light and spilling it out to the world.
It’s as though somewhere in my unconscious self, I’ve been forging my own “Susannah-coloured” rainbow.
And if that is the case, then perhaps we are, each one of us, nothing less than beautiful crystal prisms – beings filled with the potential of Infinite Light – refracting that light out into the world in our own personal rainbows of colour.
It’s a metaphor I’m entirely happy to live with.
Well said Susan. I have also arrived at a place where my journey is no longer focused solely on one tradition although Buddhism still has a rightful place in my life. However, I refuse to label myself a Buddhist. My journey is bigger than any one tradition and labels merely serve to limit my capacity to expand as you’ve say aptly put it. Thanks for the reminder.
Thank you so much for your comment, Bill! It’s caused me some welcome thinking time around my own reasons for calling myself a Buddhist – which I continue to do. For me, you see, Buddhism has been the tradition that has come closest, in spirit, to epitomizing the ideals I would like to live out in this lifetime – the Dalai Lama being (for me) one of those people who, by simply living their lives, show how it can be done.
Every spiritual tradition has its dictates and rituals – some of which, of course, can become hidebound and odd and plain stupid (if I may say so) – but I still see Buddhism, especially in its Amida Pureland form, as being one of the most integrative and accepting of other paths, that I’ve come across in my life. There is much in Admidism that challenges me, too, but I think that’s a good thing for this lazy thinker. It’s a base from which I can spread my wings and explore, and question, and still have a place to come home to. And for now, I must admit this particular late bloomer still needs a place to come home to!
Having come from a Buddhist tradition that emphasizes working toward enlightenment, to a tradition that relies to a great extent on the nembutsu, I find myself in a place where the old saying, “Work like it’s all up to you, and pray like it’s all up to God,” sums it up pretty well for me.
Be well, Bill, and I welcome your comments any time you feel like sharing!
I am happy when I see your e-mail come in and enjoy reading your posts. Thanks, Paula
Thanks, Paula! I really appreciate your taking the time to comment! Namaste, S.
Comments are closed.