October 23, 2013

The Universe Could Fit Between Madonna’s Front Teeth. ~ Jenna Penielle Lyons

The universe could, according to Buddhist thought, fit anywhere.

Even between Madonna’s two front teeth. 

That statement was made by my Lama during teachings on Shantideva’s The Way of the Bodhisattva. And the point was not to make fun of Madonna’s [beautiful, character-laden] smile, but rather to illustrate a point about how to focus while distracted or restless or tired on the meditation cushion. Everyone in the room laughed, sitting on cushions and captivated by our teacher’s voice, playful mind,  and smile. But the statement stuck with me for nearly a week.

Disclaimer: I have always been jealous of people with gaps in between their front teeth, so this not poking fun at Madonna’s smile, but it is rather a meditation on banishing jealous thoughts from the mind and realizing the illusory nature of all events in this life…putting things in perspective and realizing what is really important. 

From The Way of the Bodhisattva, number 22 of 37:

Whatever arises in experience is your own mind.
Mind itself is free of any conceptual limitations.
Know that and don’t generate
Subject-object fixations — this is the practice of a bodhisattva.

The mind acts independently of reality, or at least what we deem to be reality. We always create wants, desires and dreams in our waking moments and in our sleep. But after all, everything is a dream. Even the size of our universe or the importance of big historical events aren’t what we think they are.

And in sitting this morning and contemplating this idea as the sun was barely shining through the window,  I thought about the true meaning of freedom. What makes us feel stifled, unproductive, negative or bored? What makes us unable to focus?

Our own minds, says Shantideva.

And in realizing that the universe could compact itself into an infinitely small space (i.e. the gap in between front teeth), we comprehend a larger definition of freedom. That person who was rude to me? I could choose to ignore him/her; this is loving-kindness. The entire other half of the world that is starving? I could choose to care more about those people. This is also loving-kindness. Ultimately, all the things that currently bother me could transform into teachings…lessons in compassion and loving-kindness.

The universe is much grander than the petty things that we let bother us. You can defeat this army of negativity by generating one drop of positivity and cultivating it every day.

And in thinking about the gap in Madonna’s teeth ad nauseam, I have also been thinking about emptiness… the utter blackness between her beautiful, square, white teeth is filled with every planet, star, black hole, comet and meteor. Every sentient being is living between Madonna’s teeth, and in envisioning this, I can also comprehend the ways of the true bodhisattva; that is, I realize how small my “problems” are in the grand scheme. I realize how small, after all, this life is. The universe is much broader, and even in all its broadness, it can still fit in between Madonna’s teeth.

Did you lose your job? Search for another one. A better one.

Did your lover break up with you? Have compassion and don’t self-inflict.

Did a loved one die? Grieve, but understand life as transient.

Are you jealous of someone or something? Cultivate gratitude for and take care of the things you already have and you’ll find yourself to be rich already.

Do you struggle with self-image issues? Love yourself and start making healthier decisions.

So, in essence, our problems are not really problems. They are only problems because we perceive them to be such things in our own realities. We can change our reality. Our universe is, indeed, small. Therefore, the problems of a single person are also infinitely smaller in comparison and we should place our troubles, anger and negativity into a basket and cast them out of our minds and hearts.

Choose to be positive. Choose to view others as beautiful Buddhas, because they are.

In listening to my Lama talk about Madonna’s teeth, I learned how to relate ways of being a bodhisattva to anything that may come to be in my life.

Any event that happens is a lesson, and you can choose how to react to the manifestation of these lessons.

And in all her infinite wisdom, Madonna said this:

No matter who you are, no matter what you did, no matter where you’ve come from, you can always change, become a better version of yourself.

Now go out and do good things… the universe is nothing but a big, white, gap-toothed smile and there is room for everyone to love and celebrate each other.

Oṃ śānti śānti śānti.


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Ed: Sara Crolick

{Photo: via EzineMark.com}

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