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Barbara O'Brien


By December 29, 2008

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Feeling saturated with tinsel and cookies? These few days between Christmas and New Year's Eve always feel a bit ragged. The holiday decorations are starting to look shabby, the tree is shedding needles, and the bin of shredded giftwrap waits on the curb for the recycling truck. Yet we prepare for one more evening of gaiety before the long freeze of January begins.

There may be something physiological in the urge to eat too much as the days get shorter. Some of our ancestors survived winter on dried root vegetables and occasional venison. We over-indulge because, deep down, we think we lack something, or we're going to lack something, and we'd better get it while we can.

Buddhist teachers tell us that we lack nothing. What does that mean? Surely there are beings right now who need food, shelter and medical care, and lack them. Yet we lack nothing. Zen teacher John Daido Loori, Roshi, said,

The profound statement that the Buddha made when he saw the morning star was, "I, all sentient beings, and the great earth have at once entered the Way." This points to the fact that each and every one of us is perfect and complete, lacking nothing: the short ones, the tall ones, the fat ones, the thin ones, the crooked ones, the black ones, the gay ones, the female ones. Every single being—perfect and complete, lacking nothing. That is what Buddha declared. That is what thousands of Buddhist men and women have realized for twenty-five hundred years. Each and every generation came home to their own existence. How can that be improved? What is lacking? What do we have to add? What do we have to remove? All we need to do is see the ground of being we are born with. That is the gift of human life.

I hope to remember that next time I reach for a cookie.

(Photo Credit: © Maria Zoroyan | Dreamstime.com)

December 29, 2008 at 6:41 pm
(1) Lise says:

Very nice, Barbara. Thank you.

January 1, 2009 at 10:10 pm
(2) Patrick says:

I agree… very nice. But, as a fairly young (new) Buddhist, I have frequently wondered, if we’re perfect, just as we are, why strive for anything? Why try to achieve, learn, grow? Why look for a better job? Should we all just be content with our current lot in life? I mean no disrespect. It’s just puzzling me… still trying to work it out.

January 2, 2009 at 12:06 am
(3) Barbara O'Brien says:

Patrick — that’s an excellent question, and one that we all ask from time to time. The answer, I think, lies in clarifying the nature of the “you” that is not lacking. What is our original nature, and what isn’t?

June 25, 2013 at 9:50 pm
(4) mark says:

Indulgence is also full of enlightenment

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