HEARING THE BELL
this wonderful sound
brings me back
to my true self.
Listening to the bell, our mind becomes one with the sound as it vibrates along, settles down, and fades away. With the help of the bell, our mind is collected and brought back to the present moment. The bell of mindfulness is the voice of the Buddha calling us back to ourselves. We have to respect each sound, stop our thinking and talking, and get in touch with ourselves, breathing and smiling. This is not a Buddha from the outside. It is our own Buddha calling us home.
If we cannot hear the sound of the bell, then we cannot hear other sounds which also come from the Buddha—the whistling of the wind, the songs of the birds, the cries of a baby, or even the engines of cars. These are all calls from the Buddha, reminding us to return to our “true selves”.
What is a “true self”? A true self is a self made of non-self elements. If we are able to look in this way, the word “self” will no longer be a source of confusion. Practicing with a bell helps us practice conscious breathing and realize the interdependent nature of all existence.
DRIVING THE CAR
When we are driving, we tend to think of arriving, and we sacrifice the journey for the sake of the arrival. But life is to be found in the present moment, not in the future. In fact, we may suffer more after we arrive at our destination. If we have to talk about a destination, what about our final destination, the graveyard? We do not want to go in the destination of death; we want to go to in the direction of life. But where is life? Life can be found only in the present moment. Therefore, each mile we drive, each step we take, has to bring us in the present moment. This is the practice of mindfulness.
When we see a red light or a stop sign, we can smile at it and thank it, because it is a bodhisattva helping us to return to the present moment. The red light is a bell of mindfulness. We may have thought of it as an enemy, preventing us from achieving our goal. But now we know the red light is our friend, helping us resist rushing and calling us to return to the present moment where we can meet with life, joy and peace. Even if you are not the driver, you can help everyone in the car if you breathe and smile.
The next time you are caught in traffic, don’t fight. It is useless to fight. If you sit back and smile to yourself, you will enjoy the present moment and make everyone in the car happy. The Buddha is there, because the Buddha can always be found in the present moment. Practicing meditation is to return to the present moment in order to encounter the flower, the blue sky, the child, the brilliant red light.
CUTTING A FLOWER
Whenever we cut a flower, we ask permission, not only of the plant, but of the Earth and sky as well. The whole Earth and sky joined to create this flower. Our gratitude to them must be sincere. A flower is a bodhisattva that makes life fresher and more beautiful. We, too, can offer others a gift by being refreshing, compassionate, and happy.
There is a well-known story in Zen circles about a flower. One day the Buddha was holding up a flower in front of an audience of 1,250 monks and nuns. He did not say anything for a long time. A man in the audience, named Mahakasyapa, smiled at him and at the flower. The Buddha smiled back and said, “I have a treasure of insight, and I have transmitted it to Mahakasyapa.” To me the meaning is quite simple: Be in touch with life in the present moment and look deeply into things that happen in the present moment. The person who was not thinking, who was just himself, encountered the flower in depth and smiled.
SOURCE: Thich Nhat Hanh, Present Moment: Wonderful Moment