Friday, October 9, 2009

Like a Diamond in the Forest

‘I have found a Dharma like ambrosia
Deep, simple, uncompounded, radiant.
If I explain it no-one will understand.
So I shall stay here, silent in the forest.’

We don’t live far from Murfeesboro, Arkansas, site of Crater of Diamonds State Park. Murfeesboro boasts of having the only diamond mine in the United States. I myself have been there a number of times, digging in the plowed dirt looking, hoping to find a diamond to bring home.

I never did, although many have. In fact, this site has drawn the attention of several mining companies, who hope to dig deep into the crater and extract what tourists and local prospectors hope to find. Big chunks o’ diamond. Fortunately, they are forbidden to drill. And I’m glad.

There probably aren’t any huge chunks of diamonds. You’re not going to find anything the size of the Hope Diamond there, I’m sure. However, there are smaller pieces, if you have a good eye and know how and where to look. Or if you’re a lucky nine year old who picks one up without realizing what it was.

This past summer, however, someone came upon a startling discovery. And what made it even more surprising is that there’s no telling how many people walked past it without ever seeing it or even knowing what it was.

A brownish yellow diamond nestled in amongst some leaves hid in plain sight upon a hiking trail leading toward the mine.

Out of all the countless tourists and local folks who hiked up that trail, one person stopped, bent down, and picked it up.

Imagine the stir that caused. How many people walked by, not knowing that a precious gem was resting nearby, only to be found and picked up by a curious nine year old boy?

Now, flash backwards in time, 2500 years ago, in fact. A man is sitting quietly in the forest. He’s become profoundly enlightened. And yet, how many people walked by, not knowing, and not caring that he had the key to true happiness?

This is why the Buddha expounded:

‘I have found a Dharma like ambrosia
Deep, simple, uncompounded, radiant.
If I explain it no-one will understand.
So I shall stay here, silent in the forest.’

The tragic thing is that Buddha was probably right. Not only would most not understand, the vast majority would probably not even care. As someone told me a few days ago, “enlightenment is another word for blindness.”

How sad. She could not see the diamond sitting in the forest! But then again, most people who travel to Murfeesboro can’t see the diamonds in amongst the crystals and semi precious stones scattered in the rich volcanic soils.

If I explain it no one will understand.

It’s not that the Dharma is so difficult that it cannot be comprehended except by the most extraordinary of beings. Buddha himself said in the first quatrain that it is “deep, simple, uncompounded and radiant.” It, like the diamond resting on the forest floor, isn’t hard to understand, but it’s quite a surprise and quite unbelievable to those who come upon it. Who, after all, would think that a 2.75 carat diamond could be found in a field in Central Arkansas? It would seem like the most unlikely of places. And even in its simplicity, once you saw it could you recognize it?

Possibly. But it’s better still to take it to an expert to verify that it is indeed what you suspect it to be. There are, after all, a lot of false diamonds out there. Who would want to study the Dharma for years on end only to find that the diamond of Dharma they thought was of great value turned out to be nothing more than cheap cubic zirconium?

If. I. explain. It. No. One. Will. Understand.

Imagine Buddha’s elation when he attained enlightenment. Imagine still, the profound disappointment he must have felt when he realized that if he shared it, no one would understand. And even if they did, no one would believe him. Enlightenment, just ain’t supposed to be easy. It’s not supposed to be about inner peace and happiness brought about by helping your fellow beings. Its supposed to be about grunting and straining and eviscerating yourself over and over again, hoping to attain some kind of goal at the end of one's life.

Isn’t it?

So I shall stay here, silent in the forest.’

Buddha was so blissed out on the serene awareness he experienced he had no desire to let that bliss go. And he gave himself the perfect excuse not to. Even if I explain it, no one will understand. So like the diamond hidden in plain sight upon the forest floor, the Buddha decided to remain still, and silent. Imagine how many people must have passed him by, neither knowing nor caring how precious a teacher he was.

It wasn’t until Brahma and Indra came to him and asked him to turn the wheel of Dharma. They didn’t just ask; they begged.

Buddha needed to make himself known. Countless beings were in the throws of suffering and he had the answer. He just had to share!

Surely, someone would understand. Wouldn’t they? Wasn’t it at least, worth the risk?

So, Buddha did the first great thing. Do you know what that was? Can you guess?
It’s profound in its simplicity, and yet oh so many people don’t get it. Many teachers don’t expound on it.
And it, like the diamond the kid found and picked up off the ground, it’s there, right before our eyes.
And it was before Buddha’s too.
Do you know?
Can you see?
Think about these things. And I’ll get back to you.

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