2,600 years ago (give or take a century), a man took a dump.
It was an impressive dump. A perfect BM. So perfect that everyone marveled at it and decided to put it in a shoe box for safe keeping. When it dried out, they painted it gold and put it on an altar.
They debated with each other on the characteristics of the turd. They told everyone that this shit is the best shit, the only shit, the shit to end all shits. If you want to be free of the shit storm we’re all weathering, you should learn about this shit. And here we are.
Siddhartha really did take a good, healthy crap, though. In fact, he took dozens of them. The Four Noble Truths, the Three Marks, the 12 Links of Dependent Origination, Buddha-nature, emptiness, the Paramitas… all just perfect stools.
But, the shit isn’t the point. That’s just the visible part of the practice. It’s diet and digestion that are important because that’s how you get such an impressive excrement as the Dharma.
This gilded turd we cling to as absolute isn’t an end in itself—it’s a pointer pointing to the state of mind that crafted it. Because we’re not practicing to be good Buddhists, to be good at venerating dung. We’re practicing to be Buddhas, to express our natural Buddha-nature smoothly without effort or obstruction.
The teachings are like a rope thrown down a hole we’re stuck in. They aren’t freedom from the hole, they’re in the hole with us. Freedom from that pit is the mind that generates these teachings. A mind settled in clear awareness and bright compassion.
If we just cling to the rope, then we’re gonna linger in that hole. If we just cling to shit then we’re gonna starve.
None of the teachings are sacred, they’re the effortless musings of vast spaciousness. The genuine teachings aren’t the product of logic or cultural superstition, even though they might seem very logical or cultural. They’re the product of someone asking a question and then the other person—without forethought—giving a reply. And that person’s mind was just so clear that the replies made sense and they were suitable for that particular listener.
A Buddha isn’t swept up in thoughts and feelings. A Buddha just meditates, and thoughts and feelings occur in the context of that lifelong meditation, and they arise in harmony with it. It is entirely possible to meditate 24/7. Right now, I’m not focusing on these words, I’m not planning ahead. I’m concentrating on open, contentless awareness and everything else is just kinda happening on its own without my involvement.
Yet these words aren’t coming out as gibberish or word-salad. And I’m not just sitting here silently. It’s possible to live without yourself, to be both free and in the world. If we follow the teachings to the letter, we’ll neither be free nor in the world. It’s the spirit of the word that’s important, the source of all this beautiful, helpful Dharma that’s been passed down for generations.
There’s only one mind that crafts Buddhadharma. It doesn’t matter if it was Siddhartha who gave a lecture in 600 B.C.E., Huineng in 700 C.E., or Sheng Yen in 1992—it’s the same mindset, the same open field of view that offers us wisdom as suddenly and nonchalantly as we offer our toilets poo. Happy trails, friends.