Pure Vision, Buddha Vision: Turning the Spotlight Inward
I have noticed that if I can change the frame, the picture always looks quite different. I wonder what new and high tech specs or special eyewear can provide us with Buddha Vision. And more importantly, as my wife would want to know: How do they look on me?!
How would Buddha see this is a good question to ask. Buddhism actually has some practices to help us see things through such a divine iye.
My favorite practice of this kind is called Pure Perceptions. Cultivating this kind of sacred outlook– dak-nang in Tibetan–helps us see the Buddha, the light, the divinity in everyone and everything, and to experience this very world we live in as a Buddha field, a Pure Land or paradise. Actually this isn’t just something we superimpose upon reality, like donning the proverbial rose-colored glasses; instead it’s more akin to seeing things as they actually are.
Pure perception or sacred outlook is something we can practice daily, and even moment to moment, as a way of cultivating BuddhaVision, a way which purifies and transforms our way of relating to everyone and everything. As the Buddha himself said, according to Zen Buddhist teaching: “When I was awakened, all were awakened, even the rocks and the trees.” We may hear about sacred vision or we may read about it in the sutras, in teaching tales or personal anecdotes; we may believe or we may wonder and doubt. Yet, we can each come to know that there really is a there right here, and sacred vision is accessible, even from just a brief visit. A genuine glimpse or spiritual epiphany can help.
An authentic awakening experience– a glimpse of Reality– can become our inner guide or pole star. Yet that infinite emptiness—the shining void mystics talk about, which is none other than the intrinsic Buddha-nature of one’s own heart and mind– is not the end of the path, but the beginning of the true path. There is no substitute for such an awakening experience – one that gives us a naked glimpse into there. This one experience alone can cut through and uproot many of the illusions and delusions we have about the nature of reality. Our awareness, understanding and perspective fundamentally shifts and we come to know pure vision, Buddha vision- just as we know the sun exists – firsthand, without needing to see it all of the time. We know it’s there from one glimpse. As the poet Kabir sang, “I glimpsed it for fifteen seconds and it made me a servant for life.” One glimpse of pure vision, sacred outlook, was enough to transform my life and my world.
Guru Padma Sambhava said, long ago:“Let go into the clear light, trust it, merge with it. It is your own true nature. It is home.”
I myself was once vouchsafed a sacred glimpse of this earth as an altar and all who walk upon it as gods and goddesses, dakas and dakinis. In fact, this pure vision was so strongly impressed upon my consciousness twenty-five years ago, that I can still see it in some way right now! Believing is seeing. It was spring in the Catskills, 1977. My guru the Gyalwa Karmapa was giving an empowerment and blessing of land for a new monastery to be built in Putnam County, New York. I’d come from my cabin on Woodstock’s Mount Guardian for the day–and what a day it was!
This was the first time that I was literally transported to another place, another plane, another reality entirely. His Holiness sat radiating infinite light, which both poured out of him and into me, and from me into him, at one and the same time, more powerful than a thundering waterfall. I was electrified, transformed and I was no more. The page had been turned, the binding consumed. When I returned, the chanting was winding down and everything fell back into place. Jamgon Rinpoche smiled knowingly, and all was well. I heard a voice in my head whisper: The Buddha of Infinite Light is not in the Western Pure Land; he is right here in the world. I knew my guru was that Buddha, and forever with me and within me. Infinite light was before my eyes for several days before I drifted back to my normal state of semi-consciousness. I was in this world but definitely not of it. This must be what Sakyamuni Buddha meant when he said, in the Diamond Sutra, that life is like a dream, a mirage, a sitcom. For things are not what they seem to be; nor are they otherwise.
I have learned, it’s easier to visit the Pure Lands than to live there. Although I can still see it before me, I find myself trying to return. Undoubtedly I am looking Upwards when I should be looking Inwards, seeing more deeply. What we seek, we are – it is all within! From that single glimpse, I know as Kabir knew. We are all Buddhas at heart–we simply have to recognize that fact. Turn the searchlight, the spotlight, Inward.
I can still hear the voice: This land where we stand is the Pure Land, this very body the body of Buddha! So turn the searchlight inward, catch a glimpse, and know.