Saving All Sentient Beings without Becoming a Superhero

It can be daunting to take the Bodhisattva Vow to save all beings.  Remember, though, it’s a vow that is mean to inspire us to live to our utmost, and to remind us we are never out of work.

I grew up watching TV shows and movies that portrayed superheroes like Luke Skywalker and Yoda defeating supervillains like Darth Vader.  I’m still attracted to these kinds of movies, but I also know that we don’t need to be super-human, saintly, or even to become a Buddha to be of service to others or to save the world.

But my vow as a Buddhist is to save all sentient beings, and when I make that vow I sometimes feel like a superhero.  My superhero strength is not evident though in my everyday life.  The miracles come in my ability to get out of bed, to eat breakfast, to brush my teeth, and to do what I can for my family and sangha.  This is fueled by my trust in my own Buddha nature.  I don’t always see it, but I have faith that Buddha works in me, and it is this faith that gets me up in the morning. 

Becoming a super-human, or a Buddha is not my practice.  My practice is to simply be more and more of who I am right now, with all my human fallibilities, and to serve others by recognizing and getting my own ego out of the way. 

Zen practice is really comprised of three parts.  The first part is to practice zazen.  We come to a place of stillness in our physical body and not pay too much attention to thoughts that roam around.  Zazen is about grinding up the “me” in practice.  While I may not be aware of my own Enlightenment, I have faith in it, a faith that is not blind to the observations of science.

The second part is to save all sentient beings.  When I get up from sitting, my practice is to be of service in the best way I know how to those who are right in front of me.  I don’t need super-powers to help others, I just need to welcome with open arms those who come, recognizing our shared humanity, that I am in them, and they are in me.

The last part is play.  Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva is said to “play” in this world of suffering.  Play helps us remember not to take ourselves too seriously, and to enjoy our life.

These three parts – zazen, serving others, and playing – make a stable base for zen practice, and helps me get to the great matter of life and death.

Published by Daishin

Daishin Eric McCabe is a Buddhist monk. He teaches Soto Zen philosophy, mindfulness meditation, yoga, and calligraphy to people of all walks of life and spiritual paths. He was ordained in 2004 and given permission to teach in 2009. He is fully ordained in the Soto Zen tradition and is a recognized teacher both in the Association of Soto Zen Buddhists and in the Soto Zen Buddhist Association. Daishin undertook a 15 year mentorship with Abbess Dai-En Bennage of Mount Equity Zendo, located in rural central Pennsylvania. During this time he trained at various Soto Zen Monasteries in Japan. In France he trained with Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh, practiced in California at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, and with Rev. Nonin Chowaney at the Nebraska Zen Center. He is a certified hatha Yoga teacher through Integral Yoga. Daishin has four years experience attending the spiritual and emotional needs of patients, family, and staff in a hospital setting, and three years experience giving spiritual direction and counsel to clients with mental health and substance abuse issues. He has ten years experience as a Guest Teacher and speaker at Buddhist meditation retreats, yoga centers, colleges, and multi-faith gatherings. Daishin studied at Bucknell University where he received a BA in Religion and Biology in 1995. He completed 5 units of Clinical Pastoral Education at Wellspan York Hospital in August of 2014, where he worked as a Chaplain in Behavioral Health, and in 2015 was granted by the Board of Chaplaincy Certification Incorporated the equivalent of a Master of Divinity. Prior to chaplaincy he taught meditation and yoga for two years to clients at White Deer Run, a drug and alcohol rehab in central PA. He presently teaches yoga at Broadlawns Medical Center to patients receiving mental health care. Daishin presently resides in Ames, Iowa with his wife and family.

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