Touching the Earth: Manifestation, Presence, and Love
I. Everything Is Manifestation
Dear Buddha, with body, speech, and mind in perfect oneness, I touch the Earth before you, the one who is truly and fully awakened, to express my regret for my unskillful and mistaken habits of thought.
(All touch the earth)
(Read slowly, with a pause after each paragraph to allow for reflection)
Dear Buddha, you have taught that people in the world are generally caught in ideas of being and nonbeing, permanence and annihilation. I know that the idea of an undying self is a wrong view, and I am practicing to look deeply to see that annihilation is also a wrong view. Permanence and annihilation are both extremes. You have taught me that if I am caught in either of these two extremes, I suffer. As part of my daily practice, I shall make an effort to see clearly that my own five skandhas and everything around me is impermanent, but at the same time not subject to annihilation. With the clear understanding of impermanence, I see that nothing can be said to be a separate self-entity. Everything is a wonderful manifestation which does not have its own separate reality or its own separate nature. This manifests because that manifests, and that manifests because this manifests. This is present in that and that is present in this.
Dear Buddha, I shall listen to your advice and look deeply into impermanence, interdependence, emptiness, and interbeing, in order to arrive at the deep realization that all that exists has the nature of no birth and no death, no coming and no going, no being and no nonbeing, no permanence and no annihilation. Dear Buddha, you have opened the door of no birth for us. I only need to follow you and enter that door. I know that the highest aim of a practitioner is to realize the nature of no birth and no death and thus to go beyond the cycle of samsara and attain the greatest freedom. You have been so compassionate to teach us this. Yet, I have wasted much precious time following a worldly career, looking for words of praise, profit, and position. I know I can do better.
II. Living in the Present
Dear Buddha, I touch the Earth to be deeply in touch with you and with the Pure Land of the present moment.
Dear Buddha, I recognize my deep habit energy of forgetfulness. I often allow my mind to think about the past, so that I drown in sorrow and regret. This has caused me to lose so many opportunities to be in touch with the wonderful things of life present only in this moment. I know there are many of us whose past has become our prison. Our time is spent complaining or regretting what we have lost. This robs us of the opportunity to be in touch with the refreshing, beautiful, and wonderful things that could nourish and transform us in the present moment. We are not able to be in touch with the blue sky, the white clouds, the green willow, the yellow flowers, the sound of the wind in the pine trees, the sound of the running brook, the sound of the singing birds, and the sound of the laughing children in the early morning sunlight. We are also not able to be in touch with the wonderful things in our own selves.
We are unable to see that our two eyes are two precious jewels. When we open our eyes we can be in touch with the world of ten thousand different colors and forms. We do not recognize that our two ears are two wonderful sense organs. If we were to listen attentively with these two ears, we would hear the soft rustling of the wind in the branches of the pine, the twittering of the golden oriole or the sound of the rising tide as it plays its compelling music on the seashore in the early morning. Our hearts, lungs, brains, as well as our capacity to feel, to think and observe are also wonders of life. The glass of clear water or golden orange juice in our hands is also a wonder of life. In spite of this I am often unable to be in touch with the way life is manifesting in the present moment, because I do not practice mindful breathing and mindful walking to return to the present moment.
Dear Buddha, please be my witness. I promise I shall practice to realize the teachings you have given us. I know that the Pure Land is not an illusory promise for the future. The Pure Land is available to me now, wonderful in all aspects. The path of red earth with its border of green grass is the Pure Land. The small golden and violet flowers are also the Pure Land. The babbling brook with small, shiny rocks lying in its bed is also the Pure Land. Our Pure Land is not only the fragrant lotuses and bunches of chrysanthemums, but is also the mud which nourishes the roots of the lotus and the manure which nourishes the chrysanthemums.
The Pure Land has the outer appearance of birth and death, but looking deeply I see that birth and death are interdependent. One is not possible without the other. If I look even more deeply, I will see that there is no birth and no death; there is only manifestation. I do not have to wait for this body to disintegrate in order to step into the Pure Land of the Buddha. By the way I look, walk, and breathe I can produce the energies of mindfulness and concentration, allowing me to enter the Pure Land and to experience all the miracles of life found right in the here and now.
III. Nourishing Love and Understanding
Dear Buddha, with body, speech, and mind in perfect oneness, I touch the Earth before you who has fully realized awakened understanding and action.
Dear Buddha, you have taught me not to regret the past or lose myself in anxiety and fear about the future. Around me I see many of us who are losing ourselves in our worries and fears. This anxiety stops us from being able to dwell peacefully and live deeply in the present moment. I have the right and the ability to make plans for the future, but it is not necessary to lose myself in my worries about it. In reality, I know that the future is made of the present moment. When I live the present moment deeply and I only think, speak, and do what can bring more understanding, love, peace, harmony, and freedom into the present situation, then I have already done everything that I can to lay the foundation for a bright future.
The direction in which tomorrow's world will go and whether my descendants will have a chance to live happily and freely or not depends on how I live the present moment. To ensure a happy and peaceful future for my descendants I shall practice living simply, nourishing my heart and mind of understanding and love, and living in harmony with all those around me as true sisters and brothers in a spiritual family. If I continue to run after power, fame, riches, and authority I shall not have time to live peacefully and freely. I shall also continue to exploit unnecessarily the resources of our planet Earth, destroying the environment and bringing about strife and hatred in the world. This is not a positive way ahead for myself, for the environment, or for future generations.
Dear Buddha, may I devote my life to nourishing a clear awareness of myself and my environment in every moment in order to continue your awakened way of looking and acting in the world. This is the noblest way of living. (Bell)
Adapted from Thich Nhat Hanh, Touching the Earth: Intimate Conversations with the Buddha (Berkeley, California: Parallax Press, 2004) by the Still Water Mindfulness Practice Center, 25 January 2005.