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Lions Roar : July 2008
SHAMBHALA SUN JULY 2008 31 psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross noted that children who have had near-death experiences often reported dreaming of becoming a butterfly. Butterflies do not seem to be part of clas- sic Buddhism, but in Japanese Buddhist tradition the priest Rennyo, the fifteenth- century revitalizer of the Pure Land sect, recorded a dream after the death of his daughter in which he saw three blue lotus flowers rise from the white bones of the cremation pyre. Suddenly, an inch-high golden image of the Buddha appeared and changed into a butterfly that flew up toward the western sky. Since I happened to have pictures of my geisha mother on my laptop, I added them to the video I’d taken in the cem- etery and uploaded it to YouTube as “Butterfly from Beyond.” I also wrote to two Japanese entomologists, asking their opinion of the behavior of this butterfly, in fact a type of fritillary called tsum- agurohyômon (black-hemmed leopard spot) in Japanese. “This species does well in degraded urban habitat,” one wrote back. “They are often seen in small green spaces in the middle of a city.” “It was sunning itself,” wrote the other. “Its landing on that particular stone is coincidence.” I thought someone might write that experiences like mine were common—perhaps because Japanese fritillaries are attracted to people (unlike those I pursued with my net as a child). But no. Neither one mentioned that. The fact that the butterfly was in this urban graveyard may not have been re- markable, yet it seems to me that—of all the headstones, of all the flowers there—it choosing me specifically is. “There is still much we don’t understand about the hab- its of butterflies” is how entomologist S. Ueyama ended his e-mail. “But if some people wish to see the butterfly flutter- ing down to the stone as a person’s soul, there’s nothing wrong with that.” I believe one must welcome such experi- ences. Not look for them, necessarily, but when they happen, to pay attention, appre- ciate, and cherish them, even without fully understanding. There is much we do not know about the feelings of butterflies. ♦ In Buddhism, the issue of relationship represents more than how we get along with lovers, family, or friends. It explores the basic split between self and others and the conflict inherent in this dualistic view. It is in our personal relationships that this challenge is at its most intense and intimate, and that’s why some have said that working with our relationships is a fast track to enlightenment. Join a stellar faculty at Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York for this second annual collaboration between Omega and Shambhala Sun as we explore the basic Buddhist view of self and other, and work specifically with relationship issues in that light. Love & Relationship What the Buddhists Teach July 18–20, 2008 Sylvia Boorstein Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche Polly Young-Eisendrath John Tarrant Register or get your free catalog today at eOmega.org or call 800.944.1001 Cosponsored By JULY 18-39.indd 31 JULY 18-39.indd 31 4/25/08 11:56:59 AM 4/25/08 11:56:59 AM