The Buddhist state has nothing to do with thinking or willing. We’re not spiritual warriors. We’re not on a hero’s journey. But because thinking – attempting to grasp reality with our minds – is so much a part of who we are as human beings, Buddhist teachers use expedient means.
In the Lotus Sutra the most famous story is the parable of the burning house. In that story, an old, sinister and decrepit house is on fire. The father requires to get his children out but they won’t leave because they’re preoccupied with playing with their toys. Their toys are a little deer cart, a little goat cart and a little ox cart.
The father uses expedient means to get them out of the burning house, promising much better versions of their toys outside, where they’re met by an enormous, magnificent cart for each of them, drawn by an ox.
We’re told this is the one Buddha vehicle. The three toys correspond to: the sravaka – the person who seeks nirvana; the pratyekabuddha – the person who seeks personal enlightenment; and the bodhisattva, the person dedicated to saving all beings.
But it’s really noteworthy that although the vehicle waiting for the children outside is drawn by an ox, it’s completely different from the toy cart which one of the children was playing with. And you can see the point of this – a person who says their aim is to save all beings isn’t really a bodhisattva, he’s just a kind of insufferable person.
What’s required in entering into the Buddhist state, which is where this is a clever story, is falling backwards from a state of intellectualism. Back into, you could say, a childlike state of wonder, of gratitude, of astonishment, of aliveness. But we can’t get there with our head. We can’t enter this room, as it were, going in frontwise. We can only fall into it. We can’t enter it with our head. We can only enter it with our whole body.