The month of October is busy with all sorts of preparations; in particular it is the month that children and their families get ready to transform themselves for Halloween. Although we as people ready ourselves for this annual and single day transformation, Buddhist literature also tells us that Buddhas and Bodhisattvas also transform themselves. Unlike Halloween, however, Buddhas and Bodhisattvas do not transform themselves to spook, to scare or to delight; instead, they transform themselves to reveal, to inform and to teach. They transform themselves to help us to learn about ourselves and, through that, to help us to become a Buddha. It is a transformation that is not limited to any particular day of the year or to any duration. Buddhas and Bodhisattvas will make this transformation for as long as it takes to reach us.
In talking about a spiritual life in the United States, because American culture is primarily founded and informed by a Christian foundation, we are sometimes asked to explore our spirituality by being asked the question, “If Jesus Christ were to appear in our time, would we recognize him?” The corresponding American Buddhist question, especially given the fact that Buddhas and Bodhisattvas transform themselves, might be, “If a Buddha or Bodhisattva were to appear before us, how would we react?” Because a Buddha and Bodhisattva work to help us to understand who and what we are — to help us understand ourselves — any time our masks, the ones we use to hide behind, are taken away from us and our true selves are revealed to us, the person who forced us to do this could quite possibly be a Buddha or a Bodhisattva.
In the past, how have we reacted to the person who forced us to reveal our real personality? Before this kind of person who brings out the best or the worst in us, how do we react? Do we scold or hate them because they have shown us how easy and quickly we can scold or hate? Do we try to cling onto them when they make us happy and ignore them when they do not? Do we envy them because they show us how easily we are manipulated by objects and our desire to possess them? Or, do we thank them and appreciate them for letting us see behind our masks and help us to see why a Buddha or Bodhisattva had to transform themselves for us in the first place?
Rev. John Iwohara