My Easter story begins with the Great San Francisco Egg Hunt of 2010. It was held in the windy backyard of my dear friend Victoria Gun Goddess. She had gone to great lengths to create a traditional experience for the children of an alternative world – the San Francisco Underground Art Community. We had a small but wildly uninhibited group of fashionable kids in attendance, and they scoured for dyed eggs tucked away behind west coast shrubs and repurposed junk. One of these darlings was my four-year-old goddaughter, the amazing Bo Wyatt.
When the eggs were all rounded up I returned with Bo and her parents to Bernal Heights. A few other friends showed up to chat and drink wine around the kitchen table. Bo had been playing alone in her room for some time when she rushed in to make an announcement. She was visibly electrified by a stroke of brilliance and with arms spread wide she invited us to share in her immense idea,
“I know! she said, “Let’s pretend this is ALL REAL!”
Her emphasis on the last two words seemed to encompass all visible reality and in the silence that ensued, you could have heard our jaws drop. Her dad finally managed a spirited response and soon we all agreed to play along. Bo, seeming satisfied that we understood the game, ran back to her room to enjoy it alone.
Yes, it’s possible we overestimated the implications of her statement. Maybe she wasn’t inventing a game based on ancient Buddhist philosophy, but it certainly seemed like she was especially in consideration of her first response to seeing a statue of the Buddha. We had been in a gift shop called Heartfelt a year earlier when she dropped that reality bomb. She simply looked the statue over and stated, “That’s what I looked like when I was a boy.”
At the time of this comment and the one a year later, my vague understanding of Buddhist philosophy included the concept of reincarnation and the idea that the sensory world is an illusion. A bit of research revealed that if Bo was indeed a reincarnated Buddhist she would have been a proponent of the Mahayana branch or school.
Mahayana means “Greater Vehicle” and implies that the school teaches the fullest understanding of the teachings of the Buddha. It takes many basic concepts further than the earlier Theravada School or “Doctrine of Elders.” Case in point, the Theravadas see the phenomenal world as “insubstantial and impermanent” while the Mahayanas view it as illusory. I turn to the “poet laureate of Deep Ecology,” Gary Snyder, to define illusory in this context. I chose him because he’s familiar to me, I find his explanation satisfying, he’s a well known Zen Buddhist, and Zen is a form of Mahayanism. Snyder writes, “the Asian philosophers are not saying that the universe is ontologically without some kind of reality. They are arguing that, across the board, our seeing of the world is a biological (based on the particular qualities of our species’ bodymind), psychological (reflecting subjective projections), and cultural construction. And they go on to suggest how to examine one’s own seeing, so as to see the one who sees and thus make seeing more true.”
Mahayanas are also known for their extreme commitment to what they call the Great Compassion. So while the Theraveda’s ultimate goal is to attain a personal liberation from the wheel of death and rebirth, Mahayanas commit to reincarnate until every sentient being on the planet reaches this state of freedom. Those who commit to the Great Compassion are called bodhisattvas, and they attain supernatural powers as they evolve throughout lifetimes – powers that they can use to help others from an embodied or eventually disembodied form.
In the Spring of 2015, I had an opportunity to learn more about the Buddha’s teachings. I was completing a degree at the California Institute of Integral Studies and was thrilled to see a course being offered called “Krishna, Buddha Christ.” I had no idea, however, that the experience would spark a continuing desire in me to study comparative religion and lead me to an experiential awareness of what I now believe to be real, and that dear reader is what I ultimately want to share with you.
Saving Krishna for a later time, (for Krishna deserves an entire post,) let me first share one relevant take away from the course “Krisha, Buddha, Christ.” It concerns the evolution of human consciousness and the connection between the Buddha and Christ Jesus. This mindblowing story, for me at least, was presented by the esoteric Christian Rudolph Steiner in his astounding book, According to Luke: the Gospel of Compassion and Love Revealed. Esoteric here refers to knowledge understood by a few, and in this case, Steiner arrived at his knowledge through the use of a team of clairvoyants. That’s right. Steiner didn’t have a team of lawyers. He had a team of psychics that included himself and I must admit that I love him for that. Now buckle your seat belts because you’re about to take a ride.
Steiner and his team, working during the first decades of the last century, applied their supersensible powers to the Christ story as recorded in the Akashic Record. The WHAT?! The Akashic Record, if you’ve never heard of it before, is “a spiritual light in which the events and ideas of the past are recorded in their essential meaning.” This definition comes from Robert McDermott, professor of philosophy and religion at CIIS and author of The Essential Steiner. I know some of you might be thinking, “Oh yeah, that’s where Santa Claus keeps his list, right?!” To that response, I quote Steiner himself who said, “No one has a right to say that a world does not exist. He only has the right to say, “‘I do not perceive it.”’
In According to Luke Steiner explains the immense preparation that was necessary for Christ to carry out his role, a preparation he sees as being facilitated by the Buddha. For Steiner, the Buddha was “one of the greatest spiritual currents of human evolution.” As a bodhisattva, he incarnated throughout epochs in order to deliver his doctrine of compassion. Once freed from the earthly phase of his mission he was then able to “guide human affairs from the spiritual heights,” an influence that extended to the life of Christ Jesus.
Steiner explains that the Buddha’s enlightened spiritual form or Nirmanakaya appeared as the heavenly host during the event known as the Annunciation to the shepherds. From this point on it “hovered over and illuminated the child” until his remarkable personality change that occurred in the temple. As described in Luke 2:46-49, Mary and Joseph found their twelve-year-old son in the temple suddenly speaking very wisely with the teachers. “And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.” This seemingly inexplicable event, according to Steiner, was the result of an aspect of the young Jesus’ consciousness uniting with the Buddha’s Nirmanakaya, thus allowing the Buddha to speak through the child.
I imagine you might be wondering if Steiner claimed that Jesus Christ was really, in fact, the Buddha?! The answer is no. For Steiner, the Buddha was just one of many spiritual beings who united to orchestrate the Christ event, an elaborate effort that was necessary because the man who was Jesus of Nazareth was destined for a truly mighty task. Early baptisms were held submersions and, therefore, near-death experiences, but for Jesus the experience went far beyond that norm. His baptism, Steiner tells us, allowed for the spiritual substance of the sun, the Christ, to descend into his body and walk the earth.
Prior to this event, Steiner tells us that only a “privileged few” could develop a soul and know higher worlds through participation in spiritual schools. Since Christ’s resurrection, however, every human being has contained a spiritual element in the heart that is “meant to overflow, working in the world through… self-transcendent feeling.” Not only did this new “soul configuration” in human beings make the spiritual or mystery schools of Jesus’ place and time obsolete, (the deeper reason Steiner gives for Christ’s crucifixion,) but it makes it possible for the earth “to fulfill its mission of love” through humankind. That is to say, if humans souls complete this mission by receiving the Christ principle, humankind will eventually be as pervaded with spiritual love as nature is pervaded with cosmic wisdom.
I had often thought Jesus was referring to the sun when he proclaimed, “I am the light,” so Steiner’s definition of Christ resonated deeply with me. It was certainly a factor in the personal experience I am about to describe for this course inspired me to explore silence. Not to follow any Buddhist protocol but to just sit in silence and pay attention, and in doing so I found that my 14 years of inner work had paid off in an unexpected way. I found that my inner world had been quieted. In fact, it was pleasantly quiet and I was able to enjoy a very open, receptive, meditative state.
One day I was enjoying this state when I became filled with a sense of being the Buddha. I felt extremely peaceful and full of compassion and I surrendered to it for as long as I could – maybe a couple of minutes or so. At my next sitting, I wondered what would happen next and I experienced what felt like some sort of evaluation. It felt like I was being scanned and I remember wondering if had passed or failed the test. During my next sitting, however, I became filled with the energy of a very great warrior. I felt much stronger than I have every personally felt and I wondered if a Native American spiritual being had merged with me.
As I continued to pay attention to the feeling, however, I had a moment when I recognized it as Jesus, and as soon as I made this connection a golden ball ignited inside my heart. It was the size of a grapefruit and I was deeply surprised because it felt more real than anything I had ever felt in my life. I will go so far as to say that I didn’t know what “real” actually meant before this experience. I felt loved, free, safe and perfectly content as I surrendered to this incredible substance, and I felt myself become a very small, shy child overwhelmed by the awesome power of love.
This whole event probably lasted only a few minutes and left me absolutely mind blown. Prior to it I always cringed a bit at the whole “God is love” thing, but having experienced it directly I now have to say I cannot deny it. I experienced a Buddhist event that led to a Christ event that led me to what I consider a universal understanding of what is “real.” Call it what you may, from Plato’s the Good to the Wellbeing of the Law of Attraction, I now know that there is a spiritual basis of positive energy at the core of reality and I know it to be the stuff of our souls.
That being said let’s all play the wonderful game of Bo Wyatt. “Let’s pretend this is ALL REAL!” Let’s treat each other as sacred because we ALL ARE. And in the words of Gary Snyder let’s examine our own seeing “so as to see the one who sees and thus make seeing more true.” And in the words of Rudolf Steiner let’s invite our hearts to fill to overflowing with “the self-transcending feeling of love.” And while we’re at it let’s care for our bodies because they are truly our temples.
For those of you who made it to the end of this article, here’s a picture of Victoria Gun Goddess and an explanation of her moniker. In addition to being one of San Francisco’s most well-loved bartenders, Victoria is also the creator of an old Western style BB gun show. It incorporates contortionists, balloons, and other assorted elements into some seriously fun, thematic entertainment. Victoria, I will add, has a heart of gold. She is very community oriented and once saved me from a lawsuit by eating glass. I owned a nightclub at the time and she was one of my shining stars. Thank you, Vic, for letting me post your picture! I love you!
Bowker, John. The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. Oxford University Press, 1997.
Snyder, Gary. “Is Nature Real?” Nature, Science and Society, Issue 190, Sept/Oct 1998.
Steiner, Rudolf. According to Luke: the Gospel of Compassion and Love Revealed. Anthroposophic Press. 2001.
Other Recommended Readings
Here’s a link to a wonderful article on the Bodhisattva vow written by Chogyam Rungpa Rinpoche.
Vintage Easter postcard: Wikimedia Commons, ItsLassieTime.
Budda photo: Wikimedia Commons, Nomo.
Bodhisattva: Wikimedia Commons, Nat Krause.
Rudolf Steiner: Public Domain, no author.
Annunciation of the Shepherds by Rembrandt: Wikimedia Commons, National Museum in Warsaw.
The Sun in Celestia: Wikimedia Commons, charles.
Jesus Preaching to the Multitude: Wikimedia Commons, Heinrich Hofmann Georg Hahn.
LOVE heart beats: Wikimedia Commons, IGIT.
Victoria Gun Goddess: Marlene Deel.