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each of his teachers had given him permission to interpret Buddhism in whatever way worked for him. He’d seen how Buddhism meets you wherever you are and lets you take what you can from it at that moment. In fact, it was unlike other faiths in that there weren’t rules, and even its most fundamental precepts were infinitely flexible. But in spite of all that, he still envisioned the Buddha as a kind of deity sitting on a mountaintop, having transcended suffering. He wanted Buddha to lift him up out of San Quentin onto that mountaintop, high above his suffering—to save him. That’s the Buddha he had to kill—the illusion that anything outside ourselves can save us. What he learned is that Buddha can’t save us. Jesus can’t. Allah can’t. Only we can save ourselves.
the truth is, the sentence saved my life. I’d be dead. Literally dead.” “Why would you be dead?” she asked. “If I wasn’t in that monk’s cell all those years, I would have been on that same path, and it led to one place. I’d have been killed or”—he paused and rubbed his eyes—“or have killed someone. I couldn’t have kept going if I did that.
One thing that comes out in myths, for example, is that at the bottom of the abyss comes the voice of salvation. The black moment is the moment when the real message of transformation is going to come. At the darkest moment comes the light.