Musings on Bicycling and Buddhism

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

No apologies necessary

"The first problem for all of us, men and women, is not to learn, but to unlearn." -Gloria Steinem

I read this article from the Huffington Post, and I read this essay by my sister.  And as I am given to apologizing for things quite frequently, even when it has nothing to do with any direct action I have or have not taken, often when it has nothing to do with me at all,  the first article gave me a lot to think about.  What if we unlearned to apologize for who and what we are?  (Apology in the face of wrongdoing is absolutely necessary, what I'm talking about here is something altogether different.)

I often find myself apologizing for my appearance as I ride a bicycle here and there, in any weather, at all times of night or day to any variety of functions and places.  The truth is that when I'm on that bicycle I do not feel the need to apologize for who I am in any way.  I am a girl on a bike and that's it, that's all it needs to be, it's that free.  I do this because I love it, every moment of it- even when the wind is howling and cold, even in the rain or the blistering sun - and I won't apologize for it.  This spirit is part of what makes me, me.  

What if we could just be.  Human.  We didn't have to apologize for having free will or wanting or living or being who we are.  What if just human was enough, what if it didn't have to be inherently lacking or incomplete.  What if who we are, who you are, who I am - was enough?  In fact, what if it was more than enough, what if it was the very basis of a beautiful life?  When I hear John Lennon's "Imagine", that is what I hear - an anthem to sing out what just being human, and that being enough - could be.

In a letter to the wife of Omosu, one of his followers (usually referred to as "New Year's Gosho"), Nichiren Daishonin writes: 

"First of all, as to the question of where exactly hell and the Buddha exist, one sutra states that hell exists underground, and another sutra says that the Buddha is in the west. Closer examination, however, reveals that both exist in our five-foot body. This must be true because hell is in the heart of a person who inwardly despises his father and disregards his mother. It is like the lotus seed, which contains both blossom and fruit. In the same way, the Buddha dwells within our hearts. For example, flint has the potential to produce fire, and gems have intrinsic value. We ordinary people can see neither our own eyelashes, which are so close, nor the heavens in the distance. Likewise, we do not see that the Buddha exists in our own hearts. You may question how it is that the Buddha can reside within us when our bodies, originating from our parents’ sperm and blood, are the source of the three poisons and the seat of carnal desires. But repeated consideration assures us of the truth of this matter. The pure lotus flower blooms out of the muddy pond, the fragrant sandalwood grows from the soil, the graceful cherry blossoms come forth from trees, the beautiful Yang Kuei-fei was born of a woman of low station, and the moon rises from behind the mountains to shed light on them. Misfortune comes from one’s mouth and ruins one, but fortune comes from one’s heart and makes one worthy of respect." (WND, 1137)

Perhaps we don't need hell below us, perhaps all we need above us is indeed- just that, only sky.  If heaven and hell exist inside our hearts we can mete as much exultation or desperate pain as an entire heavenly host or army of demons.  

If I am just me, I am all these things and more.  If I just am, if I awaken to the true nature of my life -containing both fundamental enlightenment and fundamental darkness - and if at each and every chance I get to make a choice I strive choose to honor and empower life - if I choose to embrace humanity - than I do not need an external authority, I do not need to apologize for being me, for being human.  In fact being human could be, extraordinary after all....?  Lead a life of boundless joy?

So while I pedal the streets of this city I will grin and know I am living what could be the most incredible existence.... Charlie and I are a bit feisty, a little bit sassy this way - it takes a certain something to come back from being left in a dumpster.

Some other food for thought, maybe more on this later(?):

"It is rare to be born a human being. The number of those endowed with human life is as small as the amount of earth one can place on a fingernail. Life as a human being is hard to sustain— as hard as it is for the dew to remain on the grass. But it is better to live a single day with honor than to live to 120 and die in disgrace. Live so that all the people of Kamakura will say in your praise that Nakatsukasa Saburo Saemon-no-jo is diligent in the service of his lord, in the service of Buddhism, and in his concern for other people. More valuable than treasures in a storehouse are the treasures of the body, and the treasures of the heart are the most valuable of all. From the time you read this letter on, strive to accumulate the treasures of the heart!" (WND, 851)

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Tour de What You Will by Jessie Calkins is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License