Sometimes I think of buddha nature as inspiration. This may not be quite correct, but it does shed interesting light on our practice. Inspiration may be difficult to define, yet it can be so obviously and vividly present. Interestingly, it only seems to come to us when we are willing to give up preconceived ideas and make space in our hearts. So inspiration comes with surrender. Without surrender of the self, we’ll never really find our own inspiration for this life. We end up being dependent on set patterns from within or without.
If you are lucky, you find a teacher who is so inspired by the dharma that you can surf on his or her inspiration. When I think back, that is what I did for many years. And then at some point my own inspiration took over. When that happens, you don’t really need one specific teacher for inspiration anymore because everything and everyone can inspire you. Whatever you read, whatever you see, whoever you talk with inspires you; the whole world becomes inspiration.
When you talk with somebody, can’t you tell almost immediately whether that person is inspired or not? Don’t you immediately see if the light is on? Interestingly enough, when we feel inspired it often comes as a surprise to us and to others; it raises interest and curiosity. The energy comes from within but it often feels as if it comes from the outside, from a realm that is somehow beyond us.
Throughout the ages and across different cultures poets have called on the Muse as the goddess of inspiration. I remember the opening words of the Odyssey, “ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, μοῦσα, Tell me about this man, oh Musa”. Homer doesn’t say, “Let me tell you about Odysseus”, he cries out, “Please, Musa, sing about this man”. It’s beautiful. The great poet Homer steps back and surrenders to the voice of the Muse, offering himself as a channel for inspiration.
With the dharma we try to do the same. We share our inspiration. It is not about passing on information from one person to the next, as if we know something others less fortunate don’t. Transmission of the dharma can be seen as the transmission of inspiration. Through forgetting the self, everyone can become inspired. Inspired about what? It doesn’t matter so much. Because we’re all different, each one of us may open to different sources of inspiration. When we surrender the self, we can all find our particular bodhisattva inspiration and way to serve the dharma.
Tenkei Coppens, February 2013