One of the Buddhists in my local area died today. When I first met her she was old to my eyes, but the light was shining brightly. She even came round my flat once when my gohonzon was enshrined – up that flight of stairs. I remember her at meetings in the area. Mobility limited but shining eyes and wisdom. Lung cancer. It’s got me back to contemplating mortality, and how fragile this all is.
We get pissed off because somebody calls us something we don’t like or our friend believes in something we think is stupid. We worry because we haven’t got enough of the made up money numbers we all swap with each other for things. We get sad because we thought we might be asked to spend our time doing work for the money numbers but somebody else got to do it instead. But all the while, somewhere in the coming time, all of us will just … die. And that’s more than just an idea, that’s a cold hard fact. We will cease utterly in this realm of understanding.
What happens next? I once had a vision of the creation of the universe. The smash out of nothing into everything. It came out of deep contemplation of oblivion and a question of what would be necessary to splinter a single divine consciousness into the myriad of identities we all variously think we inhabit – these consciousnesses that grow like plants, solidify, maybe fuck around for a few decades and then cease or go somewhere else. I left the vision still confused but comforted in the sense that this strange beauty of existence will carry on and go round and round, and the energy that is currently coalescing into “this one” that we pretend to be – that energy will lodge elsewhere. The only thing lost will be the hubris of this specific individual identity – a pride that my vision found delightful and hilarious in equal measure. We even give it a name, this swirl of constantly moving particles. “Al Barclay”. Ha! We are an idea making decisions about what ideas it likes, and then we are sad when we can no longer be coterminous with other friendly ideas that we liked.
Another energetic being that I briefly shared space with has gone somewhere else – to heaven, back into the flow, back round again, whatever you have decided you believe and a million things besides. We will all go back sometime, some of us sooner, others later.
Everyone leaves a hole. That’s the incredible and sad and wonderful thing about it all. Nobody is ever quite the same as somebody else. Everybody brings something different to this weird consensus of existence.
Life is so precious while we live it. When we are gone the touches we left can continue, to affect the world we thought we were in – the moments shared and the wisdom imparted can stay for others to touch. Memory can be as real as dreaming, dreams can be as real as living. It’s only that we insist we are stuck in the forward flow of time – perhaps for the sake of sanity. There’s only so many dimensions we can fully encounter before the identity thing gets lost in them forever. So we muddle on until we stop.
My district all got together to make the same noises as each other for a while on zoom. We find it comforting and have decided it’s powerful. Back when the noises were first carved out the world was less cluttered so I’m willing to believe the ones we call Buddhas could hear the universe more clearly. Now with all the distraction and white noise, all the ideas hounding us, tempting us, attacking us, comforting us, it’s pleasant to retreat into a shared idea in honour of an energy moved on. Nam myo ho renge kyo. Fare forward, good heart. Stay safe.