Stairs : Up & Down

Japan Adventures [8] : Up to be Buddhas, Down to be Bodhisattvas

Photo : iStockphoto

Photo : iStockphoto

After climbing a tall and steep flight of stairs towards a hilltop temple, while panting for breath…

Z: Gasp! Is enlightenment as tough as climbing these stairs?
S: Maybe! It might be harder or easier! But no worries, it’s worth it!

As unenlightened beings, progressing towards enlightenment might seem like climbing a dauntingly difficult flight of stairs. A good mix of faith, aspiration and effort is needed to complete the task, all of which is interdependent…

Faith : With no faith that there are something worthy at the top of the stairs, we will not be urged to even take a single step, much more to say many. Just like Buddhadharma, without an ounce of faith in it, one would not begin the journey of spiritual cultivation.
Aspiration : While it takes faith to take the first step, it takes strong aspiration to want to complete all the steps. We need to remember that that which awaits us at the end of the stairs is worth the efforts spurred by the aspiration to finish the journey. Similarly, if enlightenment is not seen as a goal worthy of attainment, one would not have the aspiration to advance towards it.
Effort : Every single step is an effort exerted with mind and body. If we lack mindfulness of these efforts, and are distracted by exhaustion, our efforts weaken and we might even lose faith and aspiration in ourselves and the destination. Likewise, while practising the Buddhadharma, if Right Effort is not ensured, one would lose focus on completing the path to enlightenment.

Every moment while moving up the stairs is worth it. What awaits us is spectacular, and each ascended step brings us closer. It struck me that while climbing the stairs can be a cliched analogy of advancing towards Buddhahood, which is at times tough or challenging, it is also important to remember that when we overcome the stairs, we can truly enjoy the bliss and rest of Nirvana. Once fully enlightened, all difficulties simply vanish. As an analogy for re-manifesting as Bodhisattvas after Buddhahood to help other beings, all subsequent ‘steps’ would be as easy as walking down stairs!

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