How's this for a sign of how close I'm coming to Buddha-hood?
This afternoon Laurel and I, plus another couple, visited the Wizard Falls Fish Hatchery in central Oregon. Feeling boundless compassion for all the small trout stuck in boring concrete tanks, I took out two quarters and bought some fish food.
Tossing it into the tanks, I enjoyed watching all the thrashing about – the fish obviously much desiring the pellets, not recognizing that desire is the root of suffering (along with biting into a sharp hook).
Then we walked past some decorative ponds that I hadn't noticed before. They held fish also, fish that my boundless compassionate Buddha nature saw were being ignored by the hatchery fish feeding visitors, as they weren't in recognizable tanks.
I went back to the fish food dispenser. Dug deep for my last quarter. Put it into the dispensing machine. Walked to the ponds with my handful of pellets.
Throwing them into the water, watching the fish joyfully eat the food, I felt my oneness with all sentient creatures.
Naturally, my next thought was to tell my wife and friends about my exalted state. "My Buddha nature is almost complete!" I said. "Except for the ego loss thing."
Then, a guy I didn't recognize comes up to me. He says, "Are you a Buddhist? I noticed your t-shirt."
I looked down. On my chest was the Church of the Churchless symbol (upper left corner of this blog). I told the guy: "Well, this is the eighth of the Ten Oxherding Pictures. It's the stage where you don't know anything, so it describes me pretty well."
Laurel breaks into the conversation. "Aren't you the Salem Unitarian Church minister?" "Yes," he says, "I am." Ah, now I knew where I'd seen him. We went to the Unitarian church quite a few years ago on Christmas Eve, feeling the need for some churchless churchliness around the holidays.
Rick, the minister, and I chatted for a while.
The church has a Wednesday night Buddhist sitting group, a blend of Buddhist and Unitarian philosophies. I told him that I'd be more inclined to come to his church if his Sunday service wasn't so early, because I'm not a morning person.
Rick asked what time would be convenient. I told him, "Noon." He said that probably wouldn't work out for other Unitarians, but he'd see what he could do.
I like Unitarians. They're so non-judgmental. Most ministers would consider that if I wanted to save my soul, I could damn well get up earlier on Sunday. But Unitarians don't believe in soul-saving, thankfully.
I got in a mention of how I'd recently taken the Belief O'Matic quiz and turned out to be 100% Unitarian. (I'm just not Unitarian enough to actually go to a meeting, though.)
Returning to our car, I pondered how differently I looked on episodes like this in my current churchless state of mind. Before, when I was a true believer, I would have attached a lot of significance to the fact that shortly after I proclaim my Buddha nature, a Unitarian minister walks up to me and starts talking about Buddhism.
Cosmic! Far out! A sign from God! (or somebody Up There)
But now…just something that happened. No big deal, notwithstanding the fact that I've spent quite a bit of time blogging about this no big deal.
Earlier in the day we'd hiked up along the beautiful Metolius River on the always enjoyable Wizard Falls hike. We'd stopped at the confluence of Canyon Creek and the Metolius, where I'm always fascinated by how the two streams of water come together.
The patterns, eddies, mini-whirlpools, currents…ever changing. There will be a large section of calm water for a while. Then, it'll change into a swirling liquid dance.
It's all caused, naturally (fluid dynamics), but there's no conscious purpose behind all the movement. That's how my fish hatchery visit seemed to me – a happening without intention.
I've talked about this before. Interestingly, the last time I did – a few months ago – who did I mention in my post but…Rick Davis, the very Unitarian minister guy I met this afternoon.
[cue Twilight Zone music]
Maybe there's more to life than is apparent. But what's apparent is good enough for me.
My ego loss isn't complete. That's evident from my desire to proclaim my Buddha nature. However, to me it's much better to be honest about your egocentricity than to believe you're humble at the same time you're considering that the world revolves around your religious system.
Quoting David Ignatow again:
I should be content
to look at a mountain
for what it is
and not as a comment on my life.
True believers are always seeing omens, portents, karma, and signs from God in every passing coincidence. Or, you can just look at all that for what it is.