The following two paragraphs are excerpts from Thich Nhat Hanh’s (pictured right) closing remarks* to over two thousand people attending his Day of Mindfulness at Spirit Rock Center in Woodacre, California, in October 1993.
The Buddha, Shakyamuni, our teacher, predicted that the next Buddha would be Maitreya, the Buddha of love. We desperately need love. And in the Buddha’s teaching we learn that love is born from understanding. The willingness to love is not enough. If you do not understand, you cannot love. The capacity to understand the other person will bring about acceptance and loving kindness.
It is possible the next Buddha will not take the form of an individual. The next Buddha may take the form of a community, a community practicing understanding and loving kindness, a community practicing mindful living. And the practice can be carried out as a group, as a city, as a nation [I would add and as a global society].
The Vietnamese Zen Master addressed two potentialities: 1. The next Buddha being the embodiment of love and 2. The next Buddha being a community rather than an individual. Both of these possibilities resonate with me deeply.
Love in community, as community, is being called for from every corner, every aspect of our world – in politics, commerce, environment, social justice – or as Hanh states “we desperately need love.” Having a community rather than an individual as the next Buddha fits a trend I have been envisioning – where groups of individuals as peers show up and consciously inspire massive change from a system that is dysfunctional (racist, unsustainable, segregated, unfair, dominated by special interests) – to one that is integrated, sustainable, just, fair, and addressing the best interests of everyone.
The next Buddha would then be an idea, a principle, a stand taken by this community. Participation in this community could be assumed to be accessible to anyone with the consciousness to commit to this stand – for leading with love and adding to the “Buddha nature” of creating a transformation to this new reality.
This community would have no hierarchy but would consist of conscious leaders working together as peers.
A good visual comparison would be a large flock of birds maneuvering as one (left).
or a large school of fish changing direction in unison (right).
There are no lead fish or lead birds in these choreographed moves. The community is aligned and integrated in a “field of being.” They act as one because they are united by the field of consciousness that defines them. The state of flow that some athletes experience when fully focused on the game, when they know where other players are located behind them and have an intuitive knowing of what they are about to do is the state these birds and fish live in. They live in the state of flow that we humans experience so rarely.
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* “The Next Buddha May Be a Sangha,” by Thich Nhat Hanh, Spring 1994 issue of Inquiring Mind