“The miracle is not walking on water. The miracle is to walk on the green earth, dwelling deeply in the present moment and feeling truly alive.”
~ Thich Nhat Hanh
As the story is told, at birth the Buddha rose to his feet, took seven steps and uttered the words, “I alone am the World-Honored One.”
What do you do with a story like that? It’s a miracle story. My reaction to miracle stories is, shall we say, rich and complex. I teeter between a strong aversion to literalism and an acknowledgement that the language of transcendence requires metaphor.
For that reason I won’t take miracles head on. I want to tilt things a little and look at them from a different angle.
In Pure Land Buddhism, Buddha Amitabha symbolizes the all-pervading light and life of the universe. Think of light and life as the magic of being alive. Have you ever wondered, what is it that animates this pile of flesh and bones? What is it that imbues us with spirit and awareness?
In the martial art aikido, there is a classic technique that teachers use to introduce the idea of ki. I encourage you to grab a friend and try this at home.
Place your wrist on their shoulder with your thumb pointed up. Ask your friend to bend your arm at the elbow. With all of your strength resist their effort. You’ll find that every time, your arm will eventually tire or you are just not strong enough to resist.
Now do it a second time. Instead of using your muscles to resist, relax your arm. Direct your awareness in such a way that you are projecting your intention through your arm, out through your fingertips far out to the horizon. You’ll find that you can easily maintain the position of your arm. Such is the power of ki, of life.
In the Western creation stories, God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life (Genesis 2:7). In China this life force is called qi, in India it is prana. These are all ways we talk about the miracle and mystery of life.
Life is a mystery. And yet it is as obvious as the nose on our face. Taken away, there is nothing left. It’s our foundation and a great jewel. Life is the miracle of being awake.
Om Mani Padme Hum
The Mantra of Compassion is probably one of the most familiar mantras in Buddhism. Its meaning is layered and nuanced. One meaning that is particularly close to my heart and to Buddha Heart USA is a symbolic interpretation.
In this case om can be translated as wholeness or oneness. Mani means jewel and padme means lotus. Hum is often taken as a tantric syllable representing union.
Wholeness is the union of the jewel and the lotus.
A little mysterious, but when we understand the meaning behind the symbols we get a sense of the miracle that Thich Nhat Hanh is talking about.
The present moment is a theater of ever-changing circumstances. Like the blooming lotus flower, the universe is unfolding before us in the present moment. Life is witness to or in union with the present moment.
When we return to that union by settling our presence to the present moment, we are whole. We are in balance, we are healed and we are unburdened by discontentment. The Jewel in the Lotus in Union is the miracle of this present moment.
Keeping the Balance
The practice of meditation is an exercise in returning to balance. The wholeness that we return to brings us contentment and healing.
Life is persistent and constantly regenerating. We only need to let it to do its work. The light and life of Amitabha are always healing, always calling us back to the Pure Land. The miracle is hearing the call and returning to wholeness in the present moment.
While walking on water would be a wonder to see, being in the moment to bear witness to it is the miracle.
The eternal present is the space within which your whole life unfolds, the one factor that remains constant. Life is now. There was never a time when your life was not now, nor will there ever be. Secondly, the Now is the only point that can take you beyond the limited confines of the mind. It is your only point of access into the timeless and formless realm of Being.
~ Eckhart Tolle
Andrew Furst is a Meditation Teacher for Buddha Heart USA, a yogi, a backup guitarist for his two teenage boys, a lucky husband, a third dan, and a self employed software consultant. He’s generally forgetful and generally interested. He’s constantly trying to remind himself that he’s in union with the great divine, and willing to send reminders to anyone needing the same.
Prepared by Valerie Carruthers / Brianna Bemel