A pupil sat down in entrance of their trainer and requested, “How do caterpillars change into butterflies?” The trainer replied, “They do not, solely butterflies can change into butterflies.”
This koan comes from my new guide, “A Yr of Zen Mindfulness”. I prefer it as a result of it describes my strategy to educating the Dharma together with the first focus of my guide, which is to assist folks rework their day by day life experiences into religious apply.
The koan is predicated on Hongaku or unique enlightenment, which is on the coronary heart of Mahayana Buddhism. Merely put, the educating states that all of us have Buddha nature, which is the supply of enlightenment.
Thus, enlightenment just isn’t the objective of religious apply. It is the start line. We do not research sutras, sit on the cushion, and chant in entrance of our altars as a result of we have to attain one thing. No, we do these items as a result of they remind us of what we have already got. They level our consideration inwards; to the enlightenment we already possess, and so they assist us reside that enlightenment in day by day life.
This can be a refined level, nevertheless it’s an necessary one. With out Hongaku, with out an understanding of unique enlightenment, Buddhism turns into one in an extended record of self-improvement gadgets. It turns into no completely different than shopping for a brand new automotive or doing a juice cleanse within the hopes that our soiled, misbegotten selves will change into worthy.
Within the koan, the trainer is reminding the scholar that there isn’t any actual distinction between a caterpillar and a butterfly. Certain, the wings and fairly colours of the butterfly might not be obvious till after the caterpillar emerges from its cocoon.
However the transformation is simply attainable as a result of that butterfly nature was already there. That is evidenced by the truth that canine cannot “change into” butterflies. Canine are canine. Cats are cats. And caterpillars… are butterflies.
Equally, the truth that people can notice enlightenment is proof that we’re already enlightened. We’re Buddhas. And religious apply is the cocoon, which brings our Buddha nature into the world.
Namu Amida Butsu