Feb 23, 2008
Ask Auntie Suvanna
Ever despair at how to cultivate lovingkindness for Dick Cheney, or ponder the effect of anti-depressants on Buddha Nature? If so, check out Auntie Suvanna, who applies her unique wisdom and wit to your queries about life, meditation, Dharma, family and relationship issues, or anything else that comes up. Why not write to her and tell her your troubles?
I’m concerned that all the images I’ve seen of female Bodhisattvas are well endowed with decidedly non-sagging, bodacious breasts. I realize these are images of “ideal” women who are only 16 (so the sagging hasn’t set in yet). But, as a less well-endowed woman, I’m wondering if there is any kind of breast-size requirement to become a Bodhisattva. Seems like it.
Sincerely, Breast Envy
Come, Breast, hold my hand, fly with me over North America and Europe. Now we are over the Indian subcontinent … heading north and up, up and up, getting a little chilly, crossing a huge mountain range, over Tibet, just a little further… and now… who’s that down there? It is a kind-looking woman holding a vase. Oops, she seems to be spilling something … do you see her? She is being worshiped by a billion people. This is Kwan-Yin, the Chinese Bodhisattva of Compassion. I don’t think she could be anything larger than a B-cup. She seems a bit older, too. So you see, she has done just fine.
Until one has become a Bodhisattva, it’s probably better not to extrapolate too much about the breasts and other anatomical wonders in Tibetan and Indian Buddhist iconography, not to mention Victoria’s Secret catalogs. But, you may ask, what if I get Enlightened on the way to the plastic surgeon? There is always the possibility, however small … just remember that you can be a Bodhisattva: all you need is the avid wish, and a human body of any shape.
Is it possible to become Enlightened while taking anti-depressants, or does it just feel more possible?
Yours, Ms Informed
Perhaps you are referring to what has been called “psychopharmacological nirvana,” an effect that can be produced by some anti-depressant cocktails. Here we find yet another case of the august Sanskrit word “nirvana” being reduced by common usage to meaning nothing more than “lots o’ fun.” You perhaps know that Enlightenment is the English word for nirvana, meaning not what Jean-Jacques Rousseau achieved in 1752, but what Siddhartha Gautama achieved even longer ago — that is, the perfection of Compassion and Wisdom, which at least suggests knowledge of the benefit of Selective Seratonin Re-uptake Inhibitors.
Now that we’ve cleared that up, we can turn to some of the questions asked – usually silently or using bells – within the Rinzai Zen community. Does a person with deficient serotonin have Buddha Nature? Does a person who addresses this lack by virtue of anti-depressant drugs have Buddha Nature? Are anti-depressants intoxicating? Is karma pharmaceutical? Could a pig ever fly?
So let’s see. What was your question again? Oh yes, it’s hard to say exactly what makes E. more possible, Ms, or seem more possible, but Auntie Suvanna thinks you’re highly likely to be on the right track.
If your ex-partner phones you to say that the cat you’d jointly adopted is ill and could you put her (the cat, that is) in your “prayers and meditation”; and if I asked if I could also put her (the ex) in my meditation and she says “yes, if you want,” do you think that means there’s a chance of some, er, healing? Or is it just another way to humiliate me and I should simply concentrate on the cat?
Signed, A Confused Male Buddhist
You probably realize that “concentrating on the cat” is an ancient practice wherein monks who are distracted by thoughts of romance imagine themselves being torn limb from limb by either a tiger or an aggressive salesperson. However, I cannot in good faith recommend this practice to you, as it seems that said partner has already exhausted quite a few ways of tearing you up and, as you suggest, may be looking for more. Concentrate on healing yourself, Confused — your letter made Auntie Suvanna sad. Dunk that torch you’re carrying in the sweet waters of loving-kindness. Only after a year of this should you then begin to focus on the cat.
Ask Auntie Suvanna was written by Suvarnaprabha, who practiced at the San Francisco Buddhist Center until she passed away in September, 2013, after an encounter with cancer. Suvanna blogger her way, with humor and good grace, from her diagnosis until shortly before her death, in Crap! I’ve Got Cancer.