The Buddha is visiting my town. He is a great disappointment. He doesn't talk about Dukkha, Anicca, or the Four Noble Truths. He doesn't make us sit in the lotus chanting the Heart Sutra. No robes. No glamorous antiquated gobbledegook. And his name isn't "Buddha." It's Raymond Something.
He invites us to a gathering in a dilapidated rancher with moss on the roof. But it has a large living room and the eldering hippie who lives there is kind. We sit silently for fifteen minutes and, since nothing happens, we get restless. Then Raymond the Buddha says, "Let's cut the bullshit. None of you are really happy. You try hard, but its all pretend. Right?"
No one replies.
Then he says, "If you want a workshop in Calling Your Guardian Angels, or Finding the Wisdom of Past Lives, or Using the Law of Attraction for Abundance, then go somewhere else."
Looking at our iWatches, half of us leave.
Fifteen more minutes of quiet sitting. Then he says, "I'm not here to discuss your tribal politics either. If you want to blame the rich for the problems of the poor, or blame one race for the problems of another, or blame the military industrial complex, then you should go to a peace demonstration, though you won't find much peace there. Because blame only isolates the mind, and the more you blame, the lonelier and more desperate you become."
About half the remaining people snort indignantly and leave. The ruffled atmosphere settles down into a deeper silence. He says, "I'll level with you. None of that stuff interests me, because none of it makes anyone free. I'm only here to discuss one thing: how to be free. Right now."
More silence. Finally someone says, "Sir, are we supposed to be doing something?"
"No," replies Raymond. A few more people walk out. A few remain. The silence gets thick and gold, like honey.
"Who can add one moment to life by worrying about it?" Raymond asks. "So let's just sit in no particular posture and watch this breath."
After a few more minutes he says, "Watch this breath entering your nostrils, your throat, your chest. Is it you who makes this breath happen? Did you create your breath?" Silence.
"Your breath is a gift," he says. "What did you do to deserve it? Nothing. Notice this, and be thankful." Silence.
"Now perhaps your mind is trying to 'do' something. Just observe how that is. See the humor and absurdity of it. Then come home to your breath. Receive a breath, and give it back. Smile deeply. This is worship, isn't it?"
Over the next ten minutes, most of the remaining guests leave. Then Raymond Buddha says, "When you exhale, all you can give back is gratitude."
Maybe twelve are left, a remnant. None of them are scholars.
Raymond says, "I'm not telling you, when you leave here, go and believe in the light. I'm not telling you, when you leave here, go and make the light shine. I'm telling you, go and Be the light. Then just work softly at your work,whatever it is. Let your breath touch the heart of every atom in the cosmos. This world is not transformed by thinking. This world is not transformed by doing. This world is transformed by Being."
Raymond stands up. He is dressed in a ragged golf shirt, blue genes, and sneakers. Yet his presence is like a sunlit cloud on a mountain. Flowing like a river, he moves quietly around the room. Ever so gently, he touches each person with two fingers of his right hand.
Some of us he touches between the eyebrows. We barely feel it on our skin. But inside, a cool breeze of emptiness.
Others he touches on the chest, soft as a feather. Deep between heartbeats, we sink through an abyss of stillness.
Some he touches on top of the head. It feels like a drop of dew, melting upward into the sky.
With this touch, you hear the voices of all flowers on earth as they open in the morning. With this touch, you see ten thousand golden suns silently birthed from the center of a galaxy, and it happens in the core of your chest. With this touch, you taste the inebriating nectar of clarity. You are falling, falling through no distance, into the groundless immeasurable beauty that you Are.