Clouds of Awakening
On this day celebrating Buddha’s enlightenment, I am 30,000 feet in the air. The clouds below look like acres of cotton candy. If I fell from this airplane, I would pass effortlessly through that water vapor. But my eyes are convinced of something substantial. I can make up stories about dragons and bunny rabbits as those shapes seem to take form in my mind. But they do not stay still and eventually dissolve into nothing.
Here in New Mexico, the spring and early summer usher in tiny fluffs from cottonwood trees. They dance in the breeze—falling, rising, hovering, then falling once again. Eventually the tufts of ‘cotton’ make it to the ground where they continue to wander about—carried by every breath of wind. Sooner or later they also decay and disappear. In that respect, cottonwood seeds are similar to the clouds above.
This evening, a bright full moon is lightly obscured by clouds but a hazy luminescence comes through in glowing orange hues. The moon’s edges feather into the surrounding space, backlighting the clouds and casting an eerie light upon the landscape. Sometimes my mind is overcast with a strange glow and I cannot think straight. That, too, vanishes as clarity returns.
The Buddha nature, our primordial awareness, is very much like a cloud. Actually, not so much like a cloud but the cloud’s animating force. It dawns to us as every thought forms into a vaporous image of our experience. Then it is gone—dissipating like a cloud in the hot sun.