Guest post time again! I don’t have anyone lined up for next week, so if you’re in the mood to do some writing, send me an email.
This week, we have Philip Miller, who first discovered Buddhism fifty years ago but only recently came grasp it. He’s a member of the Heart of the Lotus Sangha, Princeton NJ. Today, he writes about a chance meeting he had three years ago. It was an incident so powerful that he tried to record the gentleman’s words from memory as he rode home on the bus:
The Man on the Subway
by Philip Miller
Last night I had one of those rare “New York Moments” that intersected with the spiritual plane.
I had boarded my customary E Train at West Fourth Street and proceeding uptown to 42nd Street and the Port Authority Bus Terminal for my ride home to New Jersey. The train was packed, as usual, and most of my fellow passengers who were seated were either immersed in their newspapers or books or were dosing, and those who were standing were holding on for dear life in that packed train.
At the next stop, 14th Street, an African American gentleman got on. He stood about 6’4, built like a linebacker, and was nattily dressed in a modish suit, the kind that one might expect to see worn to church on Sunday. Even before the doors closed he began to harangue the passengers like a Bible-belt preacher in a mellifluous and stentorian voice.
The passengers, typical New Yorkers, seemded unruffled by this distraction on their commute home., and I admit, I too wanted to tune him out.
But his voice boomed over the noise of the train and I found myself straining to catch what he was saying. Before we reached 42nd Street I heard him say:
“You are probably wondering when I am going to pass the hat. Well, I am not. I only want you to do one thing for me. Please look at the person sitting or standing next to you and recognize the image of God in that person’s face. Each face carries the beauty of God. We are all kind to our family and friends. But think about the beauty of God in that stranger next to you, and realize whatever kindness or selfless act you perform for ANY stranger only increases God’s beauty in you. I am not asking for money. Only for you to see God everywhere and in everyone around you.”
At 42nd Street he bounded off the train and walked with such enormous strides that I was completely unable to keep up with him, let alone reach to thank him for allowing me that moment of Grace.
No, he did not preach in the name of Buddha, but his words were clearly “Dharma.”
Wikipedia defines Dharma [upper case] as “a … spiritual and religious term that means one’s righteous duty, or any virtuous path in the common sense of the term…” Further on, it says that it “contextually implies one’s religion…, ” and is presented as a central concept that is used in order to explain the ‘higher truth’ or ultimate reality of the universe.
It was once explained to me that dharma [lower case] at its root had nothing to do with religion and simply means “experience; event; happening.” As such, anything and everything that happens to us is “dharma,” and our Karma determines our “dharma.”
The wise person learns from every experience, event, or happening, for even something that externally may appear to be negative has a positive side.
The “dharma = experience” of hearing this gentleman at that time and place, as well as the message he brought was clearly “Dharma.”
About two weeks after this happened, I was on the E Train going uptown at about the same time. As I alighted at 42nd Street I found myself in the passageway next to this same gentleman. He had obviously been on a different car of the same train.
This time I stopped him and thanks him for his message. Squeezing my hand in his, he replied, “How can you thank me for something you already own?”
With than, he leaned forward, kissed me on the cheek, released my hand, and bounded away.
Phil doesn’t have a website, but if you post comments below, he’ll be sure to see them.