The morning sun moved through my foyer where the artifacts of my journey lie, my props for my morning talks. Like Glen Beck, I like props to make my points in my magic show. As I passed through the foyer getting coffee I noticed the sun was kissing the face of my big stone Buddha. Above his head, the handle of my father’s Annapolis sword dripped the light in gold. Next to the Buddha was a huge mala a friend of mine was given by a monk in a Buddhist monastery on the edge of Tibet. Beneath the Buddh was a dancing man my uncle used to make and sell in bars. There you have my life in one kiss of the sun.
All I see metaphorically. The sword is my Sword of Majustri, the Sword of Prajna that instead of divided with its edge it unifies. The dancing man is my Zorba the Greek. And the mala constant ring of prayers, my mantra that runs beneath the surface of my mind like an underground stream. And finally, the Buddha smile.
The Buddha Smile is like the Mona Lisa smile, enigmatic and secret and inner. What is the Buddha smiling about? Something he sees? Something he has learned by study? The Buddha’s smile is like the secret smile you have when you solve a crossword puzzle. No one needs to know. It is an inner smile.
It is through this inner smile that you can smile through all the problems and troubles of life. Shine through or smile through the conflicts and inconsistencies in your world. The inner smile is the healing cut of the Sword of Prajna, the mind aroused that does not rest on form, outer or inner. The smile of the Buddha is, I can say, the smile of God when he recognizes Himself in all the forms he has created. The smile of the Buddha is the smile of knowing that you are the world and the world is you.
The smile of the Buddha is also the Dancer, Shiva or Zorba if you want. The Dance is the creative joyous action of being both in the world and not of it, being the world and being in the world both at the same time.
There are many different smiles. The fake smile, the forced smile, the smile of meeting your lover, and the secret inner smile of Knowing.
One of the core axioms of Buddhism is that we all have Buddha Nature, or we all have this Buddha smile within. But we live in a party where everyone wears a mask. The mask smiles. This is the outer smile, not the inner smile. We live in a society of masks. Jung called this mast the Persona. It’s an image with which we identify. Mad Men was about this image man, image society.
When you identify with the mask, the image, then that image can only be validated by what others think of you. How do I look? How do I come off? What will people think? Trump is the personification of the modern Image Man.
The Buddha Smile is our true nature, the face before our image was born.
When does the smile of the mask begin? Let’s go back to childhood and the photo session. “Try to smile,” the mother tells the child, and the s child gives a strained cheese smile, which, I as the photographer, must now undo and get the child to return to its original face.
The child is put in a double-bind where he is pressed by two commandments he must obey, but they are contradictory. Commandment number One is obeying your nature, which means be yourself. Commandment number Two is obeying your parent, also in our survival DNA. Who do you obey? Your nature or your parent, and parent grows as we do to cover authority, God, and even our society as a whole, the government. This original sin, you could say, begins with this original double-bind where two incompatible imperatives are given, both of which must be obeyed by cannot. What do we do? We create a mask. The mask is created to please the other instead of ourselves.