“Make of yourself a light.” — said the Buddha, before he died.
The picture above is a space in my yard where I go when I need to center myself. It is my sanctuary. It is where I come when I feel overwhelmed. It is where I sit when I can’t figure out what I think about, well, anything.
There is so much to think about these days. There is so much to fret about. There is so much to get angry about. (How about Jon Stewart testifying this week to a near-empty Congress with all the families from 9/11? His message was powerful and should fire us all up.)
There is also so much to be excited about. So much to be hopeful about. So much to be grateful for. When I sit in my backyard and look at the calm statue pictured above, that’s where I end up—in a place of peace, a place of calm, a place of gratitude. “Make of yourself a light,” said the Buddha in Mary Oliver’s poem “The Buddha’s Last Instruction.” (You can read it in our Sunday Paper Reflection section below.) So, that’s what I want to focus on this morning: making myself a light.
That invitation goes out to each of us every day. It’s also a challenge that each of us can decide to answer take on, regardless of what’s going on in the world. You can make yourself a light for yourself, for your family, for your community, for an issue you care about, or for injustice in the world.
On this Father’s Day, I want to shine a light on all the men who step into this role with light, joy, purpose and passion. I want to shine a light on those who take it seriously. Who show up to their roles, regardless of whether or not their fathers showed up for them.
A father’s positive involvement can change a child’s life. It can build character, instill values, and inspire hopes and dreams. Fathers can make themselves a light in their children’s lives. So today, I want to honor those who have thought deeply about this role. I want to shine a light on the men who do the work. Men who father their own. Men who father the fatherless among us. May we honor those who have stepped into the lives of those who need a father and said, “Let me make myself a light in your life.”
The Buddha said, “I would not be teaching this (a path of awakening) if genuine happiness and freedom were not possible.” While this is our potential, we each have deep conditioning to get stuck in feelings of fear, deficiency and separation from others. These talks explore the two interdependent pathways of undoing the conditioning that blocks our potential. In Part I we will look at how we can intentionally arouse states of wellbeing, and with practice, develop them into ongoing traits that bring presence and joy to our lives. In Part II, we will investigate how to cultivate an unconditional presence, and the radical acceptance and love, that are the grounds of true happiness and inner freedom.
The Buddha taught that we live our lives on the tip of intention, it is the seed of our future. This talk explores the difference between “limbic” intentions driven by grasping or fear, and intentions that are the call of our awakening heart. You will learn how to identify and shift from a “limbic” to wise intention, and several different ways you can more readily and regularly access your deepest aspiration.
When the Buddha was dying, he gave a final message to his beloved attendant Ananda, and to generations to come: “Be a lamp unto yourself, be a refuge to yourself. Take yourself to no external refuge.”
In his last words, the Buddha was urging us to see this truth: although you may search the world over trying to find it, your ultimate refuge is none other than your own being.
There’s a bright light of awareness that shines through each of us and guides us home, and we’re never separated from this luminous awareness, any more than waves are separated from ocean. Even when we feel most ashamed or lonely, reactive or confused, we’re never actually apart from the awakened state of our heart-mind.
This is a powerful and beautiful teaching. The Buddha was essentially saying: I’m not the only one with this light; all ordinary humans have this essential wakefulness, too. In fact, this open, loving awareness is our deepest nature. We don’t need to get somewhere or change ourselves: our true refuge is what we are. Trusting this opens us to the blessings of freedom.
Buddhist monk, Sayadaw U. Pandita describes these blessings in a wonderful way: A heart that is ready for anything. When we trust that we are the ocean, we are not afraid of the waves. We have confidence that whatever arises is workable. We don’t have to lose our life in preparation. We don’t have to defend against what’s next. We are free to live fully with what is here, and to respond wisely.