HOW FAR?

In WRITERS by Jon Solomon0 Comments

Mondoshawans appear on Earth in The Fifth Element by Luc Besson

How would you imagine the most compassionate beings in the universe? Would they be like the Mondoshawans, aliens hailing from a far away planet who visit every five millennium to save us from the evil? How, exactly, can we measure the distance between the mosh pit in which we live right now and the garden that is home to those wonderfully compassionate ones?

I must confess that I have entertained really serious doubts about whether that vast distance could ever be traveled by mere mortals of our species. Would I need a spaceship? Would I have enough time and money to make the journey? Not to mention that I’d probably get there and find out that the Mondoshawans had all sold out to real-estate developers. Well, perhaps someone else could do it, certainly not I! Even a rough-and-dirty calculation of cost and performance ratio seemed to suggest that a trip to a beautiful landscape here on Earth was much more feasible.

Chenresig, bodhisattva of love and compassion

Yet one day, in a completely natural way, I had the great good fortune to be introduced to the Kagyu and Nyingma lineages of Vajrayana Buddhism. One of the things I really love about my daily practice of those teachings and techniques, refined over millenia and transmitted here on Earth, is that questions like those with which I started this post suddenly became eminently practical and entirely real. One might say, even down-to-earth. No calculator necessary!

Vajrayana helped me imagine, in a compelling way, regular daily visits from the most compassionate, loving beings in the cosmos. Here is one conventional artistic representation that helps me see them a little better: Now, the distance between us has become not just immensely vast but also infinitesimally small, at the same time. No greater, and no less, than the distance between you and I, or again, between me and myself.

Needless to say, however, life often appears to us as a continual series of encounters with beings who are not as compassionate as the Mondoshawans, but angry, greedy, obstinate and ignorant. Sounds just like somebody we all know very well, doesn’t it?

Indeed, in the tumult of daily life, I all too often forget that those compassionate beings could be next to me, around me, heck, even within me, all the time. So it really helps to have a special time set aside every day when I can put everything else down and just summon the wish, from the bottom of my heart, to prepare for, welcome, celebrate and give thanks for their visit. The busier I get, the more I make sure to do this. And in that way, I think that maybe they will stick around for a little longer each time, until the day comes, on its own, when they will never leave.

About the Author
Jon Solomon

Jon Solomon

Jon Solomon is Professeur des universités in the Institute of Transtextual and Transcultural Studies at the Université Jean Moulin in Lyon, France, working on the themes of racism, translation, and cultural difference. Born in the USA, he lived in East Asia for 25 years before moving to France. He started practicing Zen under Korean Zen Master Seung Sahn in 1983, and started Vajrayana in 1992 after receiving instruction from Kyabje Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche.

Photos by Jon Solomon

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