In many of Thay's Dharma talks, he reminds us that we can taste mini-bodhi fruits by practicing awareness. They are a sort of instant effect, a switch from forgetfulness to buddhahood, just like when we switch the television channel. We don't have to wait for the great enlightenment to know how tasty the bodhi fruit is. With every moment of mindfulness, we can enjoy a mini-bodhi fruit. Surely, the mini-fruit has a mini-taste, but it's still the mini-taste of clear water springing from the source of true happiness. "We may touch the inner common core of self which is the source of inner peace, love and happiness," writes the psychologist, Joan Borysenko. This inner joy and happiness is very different from the joy of obtaining things or wealth, or flattering words from others when we "succeed." In our sangha, I believe that every one of us has at some time tasted the same mini-bodhi fruits. And we can share it with others. We will benefit from each other's experiences and we will encourage each other on the way. I would like to share with the sangha a kind of minibodhi fruit that I received some time ago in daily life's practice. Working as a pharmacist in downtown Montreal, I was held up once in 1979. The drug addict pointed his gun at my head and ordered me to empty my narcotic drawer into his bag. I always felt fear and got stiff when I encountered drug addicts. I knew in my heart what to do and how to act to be safe when held up, yet I still felt unsafe until the day of another encounter.
In the end of June, 1986, some weeks after the Maple Village retreat with Thay, I was alone behind the prescription counter. A young man came in and banged his fist on the counter and screamed, "Give me some valium, dammit!" I was upset and recognized right away that he was an addict who needed his drugs badly. His bearded face looked clumsy, his red eyes reflected great misery, and his hands were as dirty as his clothes. I picked up the telephone, as if I had just heard someone calling, and I started to talk to the phone while following my breath, "In and out, I calm my body and mind." I knew that I was in trouble. The guy shouted again, "Bring me some valium, you..." After some long breaths, I was calm and no longer stiff or angry as I was the other time. I just looked deeply into the drug addict's eyes and felt pity for him. I really felt bad for this young man who might be my young brother enjoying school at that moment. I wondered why this guy was so miserable and desperate for toxic drugs? Where was his family? How did he get hooked on drugs?
The addict still stood there, two hands on his waist, staring at me with furious eyes. I continued to breathe and looked straight into his eyes. With a calm voice, I said slowly, "You know that I cannot give you pills without a prescription." Then I pretended to continue to talk on the phone and looked at him with compassion. After a while, he stopped staring at me and walked out, frustrated but less furious. I think that the incident would have happened differently if I had acted without awareness. This man became less angry, and he calmed down a bit, maybe because the waves of his hard feeling did not encounter any in me. And maybe my eyes, which showed him calmness and feelings of pity, helped a bit in alleviating his suffering. I felt so relieved and had much more faith in the way of practicing awareness. From that day on, I was not afraid anymore to meet "bad guys" in the pharmacy. It is very strange too, that from that day, it seems I never encounter them anymore. Maybe because of my non-fear attitude, the drug addicts don't have to show their rage...
The mini-fruit that I tasted that day still gives me its sweetness. I hope other readers of The Mindfulness Bell will also write in and share their mini-bodhi fruits.
Quyen Do Montreal, Canada