Sunday, April 7, 2013

Happy Birthday

Around this time of year, varying according to the calendar in vogue, the day of the equinox and the fullness of the moon, birth and awakening are celebrated with particular joy and poignancy.  Around this time, 2,576 years ago, was born a Nepalese prince who, in his mid-thirties, would wake up to the illusory and painful causes of suffering, and then teach the alleviation thereof.   Around this time a half-dozen centuries later, another mid-life sage would be publicly and gruesomely tortured to death, and then (according to one version of his biography), come back to life, again to show that existence beyond suffering is possible.
Their suggested paths to end suffering might sound different on the surface – the prince chose wisdom and compassion, the carpenter chose love and humility. The semantics hardly matter (though the bulwarks since grown up around them might have you believe otherwise).  As Rumi explained, “There is but one light that shines though many windows.” 
And the light they both saw in their waking from dream-death, that both delivered with eloquent urgency to a self-suffering world, is available to all of us on the day of our own birth and in every moment hence.  The Pali Canon called it Right Protection:
By patience and forbearance, by a non-violent and harmless life, by lovingkindness and compassion does one in protecting others protect oneself.