If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him!

…but what happens when you meet the Buddha on the subway?  Give him a good shove!  Seriously, he won’t mind.

I’m on the subway, having the typical interaction with that guy that insists on standing in the substibule…and this time he’s as big as the Buddha.

As I push by him I try the rational approach, “You know if you step into the car, we don’t have to push by you as we get on the train.”

“That’s okay, we all have to get on the train.”

I finish pushing by him and try my second tactic, “You would actually be more comfortable stepping in to the train.  You see?  …because then we wouldn’t have to push you to get through.”

He shrugs with a nod of his head, “People get pushed in life.  You have to be okay with it.”

“You don’t mind being bumped around?”

“In life, bumps happen.”

“Really?”

“You can’t let it bother you.”

Usually reaching out to people’s selfish side, their desire for self-comfort works, but not this time.  Could I have actually encountered someone in a state of Nirvana…perfectly content and without desire while riding the subway.  Could this man really care not a wit about his own comfort?  Is this really the way he lives?  He certainly seemed as happy as can be possible…

I decided to test him.  At the next stop, he’s still standing in the doorway just as fat as ever, and there are people on the train that desperately want to get off.  Again, he would not move.

I cry out, “Just push him out of the way!  He doesn’t mind getting shoved!”

The guy trying to get off looks at me inquisitively, precious seconds ticking by before he loses his egress.  He looks at the Buddha who just shrugs and nods.  The commuter decides to take my advice and pushes the Buddha…hard.  The Buddha reels but remains perfectly content.  He is indeed in Nirvana.

…but here’s my problem with my Subway Buddha.

Nirvana seems to be effective enough to bring contentedness to the self, but in this case it is at the sacrifice of others’ happiness.  Is it possible to achieve Nirvana for yourself if you also bring unhappiness to others? Just not-wanting doesn’t seem to be the answer.  Is it too much to ask for people to go out of their way to make life easier for someone else, or does wanting other’s lives to be better interfere with one’s quest for Nirvana?

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4 Responses to If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him!

  1. Editor says:

    If you yourself had escaped samsara, you wouldn’t have minded not getting on the train to begin with.

    Or something.

  2. Jason Tyne says:

    True. For my readers less well-versed in Buddhism, Samsara literally means “wandering-on” or “the place where we currently live”. It’s whatever you leave when you go to Nirvana. Just like Nirvana it’s not a place; it doesn’t answer the question “Where are we?” but “What are we doing?” It’s a process of creating worlds and then moving into them. As one world falls apart, you create another one and go there. Eventually the goal is to stop creating worlds and just escape. That’s leaving Samsara.

    …obviously the A train doesn’t pick up in Samsara.

  3. In my humble opinion, this man was getting amusement by forcing other people to deal with him. Some kind of passive aggressive thing. I could be wrong..

  4. Jason Tyne says:

    Perhaps…have you heard the one about the rich man who visited the Buddha on the mountaintop…

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