It Works

IT WORKS

Would you come if someone called you
by the wrong name?

I wept, because for years He did not enter my
arms;
then one night I was told a
secret:

Perhaps the name you call God is
not really His, maybe it
is just an
alias.

I thought about this, and came up with a pet name
for my Beloved I never mention
to others.

All I can say is –
it works.

Rabia of Basra

We went to Cambodia to visit the temples in February. We had an amazing guide who took us through the ruins and filled our brains with Khmer history. I say filled our brains because we started to get overwhelmed by all the history and context.

Our guide and I were born in the same year. It is unfathomable how different our lives have been. We developed a really great rapport and he talked very openly about religion and politics.

A lot of the temples are to Vishnu. After telling us the long story about Vishnu and churning the sea of milk, he laughed (we were totally overwhelmed with how much was going on) and said, “these old stories are so funny sometimes.”

A little while later, showing us a Buddhist temple, he got very serious, even a little emotional, and said, “Buddha is my god.” A little white girl voice inside me said, “Nu-uh, in my 200-hour yoga teacher training I took in California, we learned that Buddha was not a god. I even learned it from a real live lama. Buddha was awake.”

Of course, I didn’t say anything. He went on, “Buddha is my god because Buddha came and said we are all the same. Buddha got rid of the caste system. He came and said that all that was wrong. That is why he is my god.”

What was I supposed to say to that? Put on a yoga teacher voice and tell the story, “When the Buddha walked away from the bodhi tree, he came across a man on the road….”

Amazingly, I have shared this story with other people and had a few insist he was wrong, like he just didn’t know any better. Considering he was born in the last years of the Khmer Rouge regime, I can 100% respect that Buddha is his god – that he would pray and give thanks to a god came and said we are all the same.

Like it really matters in the large scheme of things.

Does it really matter that Buddhists were praying in front of this guy?

a little bit buddha, a little bit vishnu

No. It doesn’t matter.

I realized on that trip that my experience with both Buddhism and Hinduism (for lack of a better word) is so incredibly filtered. My first day walking through an incredibly loud and crowded Buddhist temple in Bangkok, I said, “I surrender.” As people shoved incense, birds, bells, and flowers in my face shouting a price and saying, “lucky Buddha, good luck, you buy good luck,” I said, “I surrender,” rather than, “this is wrong.”

Who cares about someone’s definition of god if it isn’t hurting anyone else? God doesn’t live in syntax. The Divine is in each and every one of us – that’s why we say namaste at the end of our yoga classes. We each have our own names for the Beloved – and the Beloved has its own name and place for each and every one of us. How lucky we are, to all be here with that spark of the Divine inside us.

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