THE ASPIRATIONS OF SHANTIDEVA
From The Bodhicharyavatara
(The Way of the Bodhisattva)
For all those ailing in the world,
Until their every sickness has been healed,
May I myself become for them
The doctor, nurse, the medicine itself.
Raining down a flood of food and drink,
May I dispel the ills of thirst and famine,
And in the ages marked by scarcity and want,
May I myself appear as drink and sustenance.
For sentient beings, poor and destitute,
May I become a treasure ever plentiful,
And lie before them closely in their reach,
A varied source of all that they might need.
My body, thus, and all my goods besides,
And all my merits gained and to be gained,
I give them all away withholding nothing
To bring about the benefits of beings.
. . . . .
May I be a guard for those who are
A guide for those who journey on the road.
For those who wish to go across the water,
May I be a boat, a raft, a bridge.
Excerpt from St. Francis of Assisi: Bodhisattva
by Sylvia Bercovici
Early imprints on the mind are deep and, likely, indelible. Much attention these days is given to the negative imprinting of deprivation and trauma, but there are also positive imprints that stay with us and become part of a healthy explicit or implicit identity. As children, a sense of our own buddha nature can be awakened by external mirrors—by parents and other figures who reflect our basic goodness. In this way, I regard St. Francis as an early, positive imprint and mirror. To begin with, he is very familiar to me in many ways: his appearance, his speech and his life circumstances all speak of a world about which I have personal knowledge. On my Buddhist journey I have found my relationship with the traditional archetypes of enlightenment a little more abstract and distant. Perhaps this reflects some gaps in my spiritual development. Even if this is so, however, I believe that personalizing the path is an important process as Buddhism takes root in the hearts of Western practitioners. In my view, familiarity, feeling, warmth and heartfelt connection are examples of qualities that Western practitioners need to find in their relationship to Buddhism in order to connect with the essential humanness of this path.
I have come to think that, in order to access this kind of personal relationship with the spiritual path, we have to include our own “home grown” resources from the deep wellsprings of Western culture—in the form of spiritual figures, art, music and literature. This is a broad and undeveloped suggestion to be sure. For the moment, I am presenting St. Francis of Assisi as a “case in point.” However, if we are to include more of our “Western” resources on the Buddhist path it is also important not to be too eclectic; not to mix-up the basic teachings of Buddhism or engage in a superficial ecumenism that minimizes the essential differences among spiritual systems. Any “home grown” source of inspiration we bring to our own individual Buddhist path must be worthy of the inclusion.
ST. FRANCIS AND THE LEPERS
Excerpt from St. Francis of Assisi and his World,
by Mark Galli
On his frequent trips through the countryside, Francis had had many opportunities to run into lepers, and he did everything in his power to avoid them. “The sight of lepers was so bitter to him that he refused not only to look at them, but even to approach their dwelling,” says The Legend of the Three Companions. If he felt moved to give alms, he would only do so through an intermediary and, even then, “he always turned away his face and held his nose.”
While praying during the early months of his conversion, he believed that he heard this response: “Francis, everything you loved carnally and desired to have, you must despise and hate if you wish to know my will. Because once you begin doing this, what before seemed delightful and sweet will be unbearable and bitter, and what before made you shudder will offer you great sweetness and enormous delight.”
A little while later, Francis was riding his horse near Assisi (apparently this took place before the rift with his father) when he saw ahead of him a leper standing in the road. He determined immediately to do something sweeping, something dramatic to change his attitude. He dismounted, walked up to the man and personally handed him a coin. But this still was not enough to a man of Francis’s resolve. So he bent over, drew his lips near the man’s decaying hand and kissed it. The man replied by giving Francis a kiss of peace. Francis did not recoil. Then Francis remounted his horse and went on his way.
Francis, though, went further still. To continue to purge his revulsion of lepers, he moved in among them for a time, distributing alms and kissing the hand of each until “what before had been bitter…was turned into sweetness.”