|The Sukhothai Traimit Golden Buddha was found in a clay-and-plaster overlaid buddha statue in 1959, after laying in wait for 500 years. It's huge and heavy: just under 10 feet tall and weighs 5 1/2 tons.|
The first part and first chapter in Kornfield's book is "Part I: Who are you really?" and chapter 1 is called "Nobility: Our Original Goodness," which ought to serve as a clue to what the beginning of the book is about, not that that sentiment isn't strewn through-out the chapter, section and book such that what Kornfield is telling us should be crystal clear.
Somehow, the not-ready-for-primetime management at Loaves & Fishes have managed to use Kornfield's wise and kindly words in a way that mangles the meaning and says something at odds with Kornfield's intent.
Loaves & Fishes changed the story slightly to remove mention of the setting (which is in Thailand with the Buddha stature being in the city of Sukhothai/Sukotai) and conveyed the story thus to readers of their newsletter:
In a large temple there once stood an enormous and ancient clay Buddha.The story's meaning, relating to "certain of [L&F's] guests" in Homeless World Sacramento, according to the newsletter writer, is this [emphases, mine]:
Though not the most handsome or refined work, it had been cared for for over 500 years and became revered for its sheer longevity. Violent storms, changes in government, and invading armies had come and gone, but the Buddha endured.
The monks who tended the temple noticed that the statue had begun to crack and would soon be in need of repair and repainting. After a stretch of particularly hot and dry weather, one of the cracks became so wide that a curious monk took his flashlight and peered inside. What shone back at him was a flash of brilliant gold! Inside this plain old statue, the temple residents discovered one of the largest and most luminous gold images ever created...Now uncovered, the golden Buddha draws throngs of devoted pilgrims from all over.
In the story above, it is only when the statue cracks from age and stress that it reveals its golden interior. So it is with certain of our guests. They may look like humble clay as they trudge along 12th Street towards Loaves & Fishes but the stress of shared homelessness cracks open their humanity and gives us glimpses of the spark of divinity within them. Their grace and generosity under pressure is truly golden. They joke with each other, comfort each other, pray with each other as they confront staggering losses, of jobs, of livelihoods, of families, of homes.As I say, Loaves' meaning is afield [indeed, far aKornfield] from what meaning Kindly Jack attributed to it.
I suppose Loaves can conger up their own meaning from the story, out of thin air, as they seem to have gone ahead and done, but it is crass, at best, for them to do that: to implicate or connect Buddhism and Jack Kornfield in what is clearly the set-up for a plea for donations. Indeed, at the end of the first page in the newsletter it reads, "You can make a donation online ... blah, blah, blah"
Kornfield says of his story, immediately after relating it in The Wise Heart [emphases, mine]:
The monks believe that this shining work of art had been covered in plaster and clay to protect it during times of conflict and unrest. In much the same way, each of us has encountered threatening situations that lead us to cover our innate nobility. Just as the people of Sokotai had forgotten the golden buddha, we too have forgotten our essential nature. Much of the time we operate from the protective layer. The primary aim of Buddhist psychology is to help us see beneath this armouring and see our original goodness, called our buddhanature1.For the purpose of the newsletter, "stress cracks open ... humanity ... [to reveal a] spark of divinity." Contrariwise, Kornfield's Buddhist reading is that inside, beneath the armouring of a protective layer [that comes into play for all of us because of life's threatening situations] is our essential buddhanature or innate nobility.
Catholics, like other Christians, see people as essentially sinful. The Buddhist view is the opposite: People are essentially noble and good.
Christians put on an armour of protection from the dastardly world. [See Ephesians 6:11 "Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil." ]
In Buddhism, the idea is to take off any protective armour, to learn who we already are and to be with and relate to others in the marketplaces of the world, which is not a dastardly place.
The newsletter says that stress cracks open humanity allowing sight of divinity. The Buddhist reading is that the aim from settling the mind is to know who we really are. Divinity has nothing to do with it.
Loaves' analysis of the story reveals some untoward things about the view of Loaves & Fishes management toward those the organization supposedly exists to serve and what it thinks of potential donors.
For Kornfield, the message is one that relates to us all. For Loaves & Fishes, the story is one selectively about a subgrouping of homeless people (the most pathetic among us, I guess they're going for): a bunch of clay figures that don't walk, but trudge, along Twelfth Street.
Make no mistake, there are homeless people we all might consider pathetic, in a sense. They are pathetic because they are in need of help that they mostly don't get.
In Loaves & Fishes' telling, only after the stress of being homeless is there a crack in pathetic homeless people's clay exteriors that lends sight of their humanity. Oh, really? What were they before that, when they had more-normal lives or were first homeless? Zoo animals?
There are several discordant meanings for the word humanity: (1) mankind; human beings as a group; (2) the human condition; (3) the quality of being benevolent.
You have to suppose the newsletter writer was going for meaning #3. Thus, stress cracks these pathetic people open such that they are seen as being benevolent and divine.
It's an interesting theory, but I really don't think so. I think, like all us homeless folk, and like many who are housed, we forget our troubles from time to time and enjoy what is immediately before us. We are, momentarily not under pressure. We can be like the prisoners at the end of Sullivan's Travels and laugh at a Warner Bros. cartoon, forgetting where we are. And where are we, often? At Loaves & Fishes.
1 The Buddha-nature doctrine centres on the possession by sentient beings of the innate, immaculate buddha-mind or buddha-element (Buddha-dhatu), which is, prior to the attainment of complete buddhahood, said to be not clearly seen nor known in its full radiance.
The Buddha-nature is equated in the Mahāyāna Mahāparinirvāṇa Sūtra with the changeless and deathless true self of the Buddha. In the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra, however, it is said that the tathāgatagarbha might be mistaken for a self, which according to this sutra, it is not. This Buddha-nature is described in the Mahāparinirvāṇa Sūtra to be incorruptible, uncreated, and indestructible. It is eternal awakeness (bodhi) indwelling samsara, and thus opens up the immanent possibility of liberation from all suffering and impermanence.
No being of any kind is without the Buddha-nature (Buddha-dhatu). It is indicated in the Angulimaliya Sūtra that if the Buddhas themselves were to try to seek for any sentient being who lacked the Buddha-nature, not one such individual would be found. In fact, it is stated in that sutra that it is impossible for Buddhas not to discern the presence of the everlasting Buddha-nature in each and every being. [From wikipedia.]