On Saturday night, we will enter Rohatsu Sesshin, the seven-day sitting that celebrates Shakyamuni’s enlightenment. It is said that on that penultimate night, Mara the Evil One threw at our hero (as tricksters do in most religions) all manner of temptations. And in my favorite version of that story, the thirtysomething prince finally says to Mara, “I know who you are … you’re me.”
Fast forward a dozen centuries. The old man-fox confesses to Baizhang that he guessed wrongly about how a Buddha relates to cause and effect. Correct answer: An enlightened one is not blind to cause and effect.
So, how long will it take us to understand that we are the cause and the effect? That everything we put out comes back, not sent by a wrathful Judge, but simply the natural consequence of interconnectedness. (If you doubt that concept, consider for a moment that the iron atoms in your body were made in an exploding supernova so long ago you can’t even comprehend the timeline. You’ve had more than 500 lifetimes, by a factor inconceivable.)
The celebration of Rohatsu, then, isn’t about someone else, a long time ago in a land far, far away. The iron atoms of enlightenment – acceptance of things just the way they are – have been available to us for … ever. And because of that, we know in our hearts who Shakyamuni Buddha was. He’s us.