Sunday, November 14, 2010

A bodhisattva lives in Brooklyn

May I be a protector to those without protection,
A leader for those who journey,
And a boat, a bridge, a passage
For those desiring the further shore.

May the pain of every living creature
Be completely cleared away.
May I be the doctor and the medicine
And may I be the nurse
For all sick beings in the world
Until everyone is healed.

-- Shantideva

"The marketplace is where we need to be."
-- Enkyo Roshi O'Hara on the bodhisattva path

Actions of bodhisattva as observed one Saturday with Mary (an amended list)

-- welcoming hug
-- offering food, specially vegetarian for me, and drink
-- joking with the guys who work in the coffee shop and the place where she buys her Times and lottery tickets
-- good-natured patience as we wait for the shuttle bus because the subway station is closed
-- thanking the shuttle bus driver (let's shorten the list -- thanking anyone who provides any service, a sincere thank you, complete with eye contact)
-- walking across the Brooklyn Bridge an staying out of the bike lane
-- delighting in the couple who ballroom dance to the street musician's music
-- buying soft socks for Niece Christine, whose feet are always cold
-- staying up til 2:15 a.m. talking to Niece Christine, who is a bodhisattva for another list (she's a middle school special-ed teacher in Bed-Stuy)
-- napping
-- caring for two formerly feral cats whose malformed intestines mean extra work
-- accepting with grace and good humor that the 7:30 showing of The Social Network is sold out, throwing out the plan for the evening
-- listening
-- still listening
-- putting an arm around me
-- talking
-- appreciating and being in this moment, this day, this life.

Mary doesn't know what a bodhisattva is. We're talking about it -- I went to Roshi O'Hara's talk Friday night -- when she sees the soft socks in the window of a dollar store and thinks of Christine.
"That's the act of a bodhisattva," I tell her, to act from a place of compassion with no thought of return. To see everyone's needs as equal to your own. To SEE everyone, from the the homeless guys to the waitress to an old friend, with the same tenderness.
She laughs. OK, she says.
Mary hasn't taken a formal vow but the bodhisattva intention is there: to bring happiness and benefit to all beings, to save them from the meanness of the world, to help them be their best selves (thereby avoiding accumulating bad karma).
Mary is a bodhisattva. In Brooklyn. For real.

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