Opening to the Mystery
Drapes of Wisteria
Hanging from the heavens
Betrothed in a dusk sky
Highlight the ancient temple
In respect I bow to the
Mystery of life.
— By Lhasha
My earliest memories of childhood take me back to gazing into the mirror and asking myself ‘what does this body have to do with what is inside me?’ Basically I was asking who am I? And, what am I doing here? These times were accompanied by a state of bodily wonder where my senses were highly activated, all of my experience was pervaded by sounds and voices that moved more rapidly, and my visual field was amplified as all internal and external images turned larger than life and were closer. Some might call this an altered state similar to when Alice in Through the Looking Glass says “…one bite makes you smaller and another makes you tall”.
As I grew and developed, these experiences came and went and could manifest at any time, under many circumstances, not only in view of the mirror. Whenever I asked my mother about them her reply was “Leslie, do not look in the mirror so much, you think too much”. This answer was totally unsatisfactory and actually began my journey of looking for answers that I would later relate to as “the mystery of life”.
By the time I reached my late twenties and began having some introduction to meditation and later on to Buddhism, I learned of the possibility of these deep inner questions being met through experiences of calm, slowing down, a sense of spaciousness, and composure. It was not like being handed an obvious answer, yet something was shifting inside that gave me a sense of placement.
As I pursued Buddhist studies I learned that the Buddha had also asked similar questions of life and that they had motivated him on the journey that brought him to understand the Four Noble Truths, The Noble Eightfold Path, and ultimately freedom.
This month Buddhists and Hindus around the world stop and pause to honor the holy day of Vesak. This day is a commemoration of the Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and death. It is a celebration of all the Buddha’s teachings, the example of his life, and ways he taught people to live without suffering and instead with happiness. In all Buddhist practicing countries, his life is honored by prayers, chanting, special foods, vigils, and connecting with sangha. It has been acknowledged since 1950 as a special holiday in a meeting of Buddhists in Sri Lanka, and since 2000 by the United Nations as an International spiritual festival marked by joyousness.
This is a good time to remember oneself, who we are, what our purpose is, what is fulfilling, and what our destiny in this life is. This is a very unique reflective opportunity for inquiry that can mold, shape, and bring significance and meaning to one’s life: placing us on the path of peace. In the ancient Tibetan texts, it is written “O Nobly Born, O you of glorious origins, remember your radiant true nature, the essence of mind. Trust it. Return to it. It is home.”