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Lions Roar : September 2018
of miraculous stories of physical and emotional healing effected merely by the Buddha’s presence. Jesus and other saints also had the power to heal the sick, and tent revival preachers still cause the blind to see and the lame to throw off their crutches and walk. Faith heals the body and heart by healing the soul. So yes, whether rational or not, spiritual traditions are concerned with our ordinary well-being. But even when the body can’t be healed, the soul can be. Putting us “right” with our inmost hearts, regardless of our physical condition, is the larger goal of all religious traditions, including Bud- dhism. If we cling too tightly to physical and emo- tional healing as our goal, we won’t be able to find spiritual healing when we need it most. Like the Buddha, we can heal, we can become whole, even when we are ill, even as we let go of our life. Widening the concept of healing in this way necessarily widens our sense of who and what we think we are. If we are the body, and the thoughts, feelings, and memories associated with it, then we’ll want to preserve the body at all costs, and, thus, ordinary healing will be of utmost importance. But all religions, including Buddhism, teach that we are more than the body and its associated mental and emotional states. In Buddhist terms we are also, perhaps most saliently, buddha or buddhanature— awareness itself, luminous consciousness. The Buddha affirmed that “this Mind, O monks, is luminous, only it is obscured by adventitious defilements from without.” The path purifies these defilements, enabling the luminous mind to shine forth unobstructed. In the later mind-only schools of Mahayana Buddhism, there is much teaching about the nature of this mind, and there are deep meditation practices to help guide us to it, insofar as this is possible. Clearly, mind is not something inside our brains. It is not a state or a condition. It is inside, outside, and everywhere else. It exists and it doesn’t. In the light of Mahayana teachings like this, the point of the path is to appreciate that this is what we are—as much as, and even more than, the body and its mental and emotional concomitants. To affect this identity shift will enable us to die as the Buddha did—fully and with perfect healing. This is the goal of the Mahayana path. In Mahayana Buddhism, recognition of this ulti- mate form of healing, beyond the body and sense of self, has an altruistic and communal dimension. If my body is the sacred instrument through which I appreciate, as the Buddha did, that I am embraced by and identified with both life and death, then I will understand that my desire to be and have more is a painful projection of my fear and separation, born of the ignorance that has caused beginningless suf- fering. Feeling life in this way, I can’t continue to be selfish. I’ll be motivated by love for all sentient beings, who are my true self, and I will care for them, protect them, and grieve for their losses and pain. To fully live with such a spirit, regardless of my own condi- tion, is the ultimate form of healing. In Zen Buddhist lore and discourse, the enlight- ened sages are ordinary people, masters of “everyday mind.” There is, as the saying goes, “nothing special” about them. The implication is that to be a normal, fully functioning, healthy human being is to be a lov- ing, caring, compassionate person, one who takes care of, without being overly concerned about, one’s self. The fact that in this sense almost all of us are abnor- mal should not deter us from seeking a path to simple normalcy and everyday health—what the Zen masters understood as awakened life. I think we all need to do this, for our own good and for the good of us all. ♦ ZOKETSU NORMAN FISCHER is founder of the Everyday Zen Foundation. His most recent book is Experience: Thinking, Writing, Language & Religion. Like the Buddha, we can heal—we can become whole—even when we are ill, even as we let go of life. LION’S ROAR | SEPTEMBER 2018 55