Cracks in the Buddha

I recently heard Tara Brach tell a story about a statue of the Buddha in Southeast Asia. It was a large, clay statue that had survived for thousands of years and was beloved by the local community.

One day, a group of monks was attempting to fix one of the many cracks that had emerged in the well worn statue, and they noticed that light was emerging from the crack. As they continued to explore, they found light shining from other cracks and chips in the earthen Buddha. Eventually they discovered that the Buddha statue was actually made of solid gold, one of the largest golden Buddhas in the world, and that it had been covered in clay to protect it through the wear and tear of the years and through ages of war and invasions.

Tara told this story as a demonstration of how it is with all of us. That our golden being, our essence, is often covered in layers of protection. Layers of forgetting. Just like the shell of the Buddha kept it safe through all those years, our shells got us through 7th grade, protected us in difficult relationships, helped us navigate through the confusion and pain of this world. Yet it is so easy to mistake the shell for who we are, and have total amnesia of what is underneath.

Leonard Cohen has that great line, “There is a crack in everything, that’s where the light gets in.”

You could also say, as in the case of the Buddha statue, the cracks are where the light shines out. The cracks that we work our asses off to fix, to hide, hold it all together, are often the invitations to remember who we really are.

Last week, Erin wrote about how impermanence can wake us up to what it most important in life. Often, in those recognitions, the protective layering falls apart, and in Kabir’s words, a million suns blaze with light, though the cracks. Here’s Kabir:

The guest is inside you, and also inside me;
you know the sprout is hidden inside the seed.
We are all struggling; none of us has gone far.
Let your arrogance go, and look around inside.

The blue sky opens out farther and farther,
the daily sense of failure goes away,
the damage I have done to myself fades,
a million suns come forward with light,
when I sit firmly in that world.

I hear bells ringing that no one has shaken,
inside “love” there is more joy than we know of,
rain pours down, although the sky is clear of clouds,
there are whole rivers of light.
The universe is shot through in all parts by a single sort of love.
How hard it is to feel that joy in all our four bodies!

Those who hope to be reasonable about it fail.
The arrogance of reason has separated us from that love.
With the word “reason” you already feel miles away.”

Wishing you cracks, with light shining through,


p.s. We have space open in two upcoming workshops in Salt Lake City which we’re very excited to offer: Somatics for Yogis 2/22-23 and A Good Foundation 3/1. Join us! Visit our “schedule” for more information.

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