The life of a Vajrayana Buddhist Nun
Section XX - The Scholar
Lord Sky was also old but spry. It seems that the young monks are never wise – only the old ones. Lord Sky wore dark robes as we did, but he was a great scholar and everybody respected him. Lady Moon was thrilled that a great scholar and teacher would visit us, and I was happy that she was happy. But really he was coming here because he could not have true vision, even with all of his knowledge. I could not get excited at this. Besides, I thought his knowledge might be boring.
And sure enough, it was. There were so many categories, of who was what, and where it came from, and things it turned into, and things it possessed or didn't possess (depending on how you looked at it) that all he had to do was start talking and I got sleepy. I was just amazed at the excitement of the other nuns. He stayed in the visitors house, and ate with us, and every few days, he gave a talk on some text or aspect of philosophy. The nuns tried very hard to follow him.
I did too, but they did it voluntarily. Ocean of Beauty had told him that I had natural spiritual gifts, but that my mind must be trained. I felt like an ox having to carry an enormous load. But at least he explained that there were different kinds of Buddhism worshiping different kinds of Buddhas – my parents followed the kind from the South, where Lord Buddha was a good man who gained freedom from earthly suffering. But the monks and nuns followed a different kind, where there were many buddhas, and some were never human. They exist in heaven like stars in the sky, and help others gain freedom. I suppose it is better to have more buddhas. It increases the chance of finding one who likes you.
Lord Sky talked about many secret teachings that the buddhas left on earth. Some buddhas had taken on bodies and written them down or initiated people. Some buddhas just inspired or possessed people, and wrote things down that way. The teachings talked about paradises and Buddha worlds, and also ways to purify the body and mind so the buddhas won't be disgusted when they see you.
He told me that I might have secret teachings from the dakini. I said I had teachings, but I did not know if they were secret. I could try to pay attention, and tell him, and he could judge for himself.
I told Vajra Dakini about Lord Sky, and she thought he was funny. She is always amused by scholars, and takes their forms. She becomes ponderous, serious, with wrinkled brow, harrumphing, and clearing her throat, making sure that all eyes are upon her. Then she raises her hands and says, "You are human beings, are you not? Perhaps so. Perhaps not. I shall think about it and tell you the answer." Then she struts about some more.
Lord Sky is not that bad, but he does think he knows everything. This is bad – it is vain, and it chases away beings who are friendly. One wonders if he has meditated on compassion, like the nuns here. Perhaps he meditates on always being right.
At any rate, he sometimes gets to something interesting, like talking about Buddha-worlds. I didn't know much about them. I only stayed with Vajra Dakini. But some of the Buddha-worlds sounded very nice, with jeweled trees and shining swans, and pathways made of pearl pebbles. But one must be a devotee to a particular Buddha to get there, and I don't know if I can be devoted to more than one.
So we studied together, but I don't think Lord Sky was impressed like Ocean of Beauty. I think he thought that I was a silly girl. I asked Vajra Dakini what she thought. She said, "I think he needs a wrathful deity – he is too proud." I asked, "Who would be the best one to visit him?" She said, "There is a horse-headed bhairava with many arms holding weapons. He breathes fire. He might be a good beginning." She smiled. She always does strange things.
The next morning, Lord Sky said he was ill, and he looked ill – he was as white as a sheet. But later in the morning, he called me in, and said, "Did you send that monster into my dreams?" I said, No, I did not have the power to send anybody. He said, "But you knew about it." I said that I had suspected something like that.
He said, "I came here to be enlightened, not to look at monsters. Is this some sort of joke?" I said, "Lord Sky, you are too proud. Nobody with your vanity could ever gain liberation. The dakini said that this was a beginning for you to gain humility. Once you can fear, then you can learn." He said, "I am already learned – why would anyone need to learn to fear, which is passion and attachment?"
I said, "Look, from what I have seen, Buddhas and bhairavas and dakinis already know everything – they don't need or want to learn from you. They are interested in having devotees or friends, not visiting scholars. They do not need what you offer."
He said, "This is very depressing. I spend my life memorizing texts in hopes of seeing a Buddha, and I have failed." I said, "Well not really. The wrathful deity is a kind of Buddha. You should know that. But you should try to meditate seeking Buddhas with love. Then they can repay you with liberation." He said, "Buddhas are detached, with full awareness and not subject to love. You speak with lesser beings."
I said, "The lesser beings can connect you with the buddhas. Unless you can find liberation without help, it is important to speak with those who know the path." He said, "And I must be a groveling devotee to do this? What happened to buddhas loving wisdom?" I said, "I think it depends on the Buddha. The ones who only love wisdom don't like people, and won't help them."
Lord Sky was a bit shaken, but still very vain. However, at least he knew that buddhas and bhairavas had real power. He stayed his month, and before he left, he asked if the dakini could really send a Buddha. I said, "I am sure she could if the Buddha was agreeable."
He said, "This is the first situation in which an unlearned, ignorant girl might actually be able to fulfill my life's goal. I would be a fool to ignore it, thought it violates so many teachings. What must I do?" I said, "I am not sure. Perhaps if we pray to Vajra Dakini, and you do it seriously and without pride, she will listen. Let us pray – you speak out loud."
He said,"I don't pray, - All right, I shall try. Dakini, you are illusion personified, of the diamond lineage, glorious, majestic, and dignified beyond all humans. Hear my prayer. Let me encounter a Buddha."I said, "That is a good start, but tell her why it is important." He said,Are you sure she is listening? We didn't invoke her. Oh well, … Dakini, this is my life's goal. I have studied the major and minor revelations and commentaries, the moral rules, and the stages of reality. It is all theory. I seek something more, if only a glimpse to know that the universe is more than a game in my mind. Many of the great sages could not only argue well but also had insight into the depths of emptiness. I seek to be like them. Two were my ancestors, and at this rate I shall never echo their glory. True, personal glory is fleeting, but I seek to be their equals. I would give up my fame for direct experience of emptiness.I said, "That sounds honest. I will talk to the dakini. You should stay an extra week, because sometimes it takes a while. Maybe you could do a special teaching for the nuns."
I'm not sure how old I was then. Perhaps I was in my early teens. He did not like listening, but he did. I prayed to Vajra Dakini, who danced in the form of an elephant weighted down with scrolls. She looked like him (the scholar) except with a big trunk. She had not heard him, but she could look in my mind, and see my memories. She said, "He is getting better. Perhaps a glimpse would actually help him – though it might just make him more proud. I will ask around." Then we made fun of the scholars, seeing them walking around with silly objects on their heads.
Lord Sky stayed around for a few days, and then announced that there would be no teaching that day. The nuns were disappointed. This was the most excitement they had had all year.
He called me in and said, "The prayer worked. I was asleep last night and suddenly I was awake while asleep. I was flying through a sky of stars escorted by a bhairava. We arrived at a great gate, which opened for us, and we were in the paradise of the Blue Buddha of Wisdom and Purity. I could not enter the throne room but I saw him in meditation generating the worlds in great halos and rings. The palace was like the center of the universe, and great rings of blue and gold emanated from it. There was a lake at the foot of the throne, and I looked into it. Suddenly, the palace and everyone in it were swept away, and I was in the midst of emptiness. It was vast and beautiful, the source of all things, full of power, beyond everything." I said, "I'm glad that your prayer was successful." He said, "I suppose it was the prayer after all. Who would have thought such a thing? But nothing else has changed. The vision lasted only a few minutes, or perhaps seconds – I don't even know. But I know that my life has been changed. I do not know how much you had to do with this, but I thank you for the part you played. Now I can die in peace, having attained at least a glimpse of what my ancestors did."
I said, "I don't think the dakini's goal was to give you a happy death. She wanted this to inspire your meditation, to make your philosophy real instead of a game. If it only gives you pride among your ancestors, then it was a failure." He said, "Perhaps. I have been in meditation this morning, and I shall return to it when I leave. It will take some time to determine what to do."
I left and saw Lady Moon, and I told her what had happened. She said, "Child, do not become proud of yourself from such events." I said, "Lady, the dakini does as she chooses. I am her slave, her pet, her devotee. I can't do anything on my own."
Lord Sky stayed in the room another day, and then had an announcement to the nuns. He said he had had a vision, and that he could not stay a teacher. He had decided to renounce the world and become a monk. He said he had long debated this, and lived a monastic life personally, but he had never joined an order. Now, for whatever years [he had] left, he wanted the blessings of a monastic community. He thanked the nuns for inspiring him, and said that the sincerity and good will of this convent would inspire anybody.
Lady Moon was just thrilled, and all the nuns were happy at this praise from a great scholar. I wondered if the vision had really changed him. This seemed to be an important step for him.
As he left, he stopped to say goodbye. He said he did not know if the dakini really caused the vision, but that I should thank her anyway, and he asked for her blessings. This sounded good.
We went back to dull convent life, praying, and meditating, and sleeping, and working. Now that I knew artwork, I could go out and make paints, and draw pictures. The convent could give them to people who gave donations. I could not afford the wealthy paints – some artists used powered gold and jewels – but I could make paints from local leaves and roots, and from certain rocks. I nailed the cloth onto sticks on the ground, and sometimes put it on a low table. I painted buddhas, and beautiful worlds, and one for my room – Vajra Dakini dancing with her knees knocking together, and a silly expression.
When I had become good and confident at painting, and had done it for many years, Vajra Dakini said one day,You know I can give you some interesting teachings. You have learned reading and writing, as well as painting, and you should not let that skill go to waste. I have some teachings in mind.I said, "I will be glad to write them – I can make straight lines, and then erase them, and I can help the writing with pictures. Do you have stories of buddhas?"
She smiled, and said, "Oh, I could tell you some stories about those guys. But no, I have ways for people to deal with karma, and travel in the spiritual worlds. You should start with a mantra and a light as initiation, and then we will travel down roads and rivers of light. We start tomorrow."
To continue with the life of Chen Ma, click on the link below :
Introduction | The Bhairava or Spiritual Guide | Lives of Spiritual Weakness | Lives of Spiritual Awakening | Conclusion
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