Once upon a time there was a young man of the East, who carried rainbows with him wherever he went.
Sometimes the people with him would see the rainbows; sometimes they wouldn’t. But when they didn’t see the rainbows, they saw other things that were just as spectacular.
Sometimes they saw kindness. Sometimes they saw gentleness. Sometimes they saw compassion. Sometimes they saw penetrating wisdom. Sometimes they saw humor, and smiles, and laughter. Sometimes they even saw things that they couldn’t explain!
But always, they saw beauty—like a rainbow.
People whispered that this young man could do miracles. They murmured that he could leave hand- and footprints in solid rock. They whispered that his eyes could look into realms that other people couldn’t see. They thought he knew things that were impossible for anyone to know. They claimed he knew what would help them, and what wouldn’t.
They said he knew the secrets of the mind.
Most of all, they marveled at his activity. How he drew people to him, as a lamp beckons travelers on a dark and dusty road. How he touched people’s hearts and minds with the rainbows of his own heart and mind. How he sparked others to change, even as he, himself, remained steady and glowing.
As the young man grew, so too did his rainbows.
He wrote music that was beyond beautiful, music that made people begin to hum, and sing, and dance. He painted pictures that moved people to take up their own brushes and paints. He wrote poetry that inspired the best parts of people’s natures.
He made people think, I want to be like he is.
As the young man grew, so too did his reputation. Some of us outside his own land began to hear about him, began to want to meet him, began to write him letters to ask him to come to us.
And after some time, he did travel. He packed his rainbows, and mounted a dragon with a thunderous, profound roar, and flew for a very great distance to a place that he had named as his home in the West.
Where hundreds of us came from thousands of miles away just to see him. Just to hear him speak. Just to be in his presence. Just to witness his activity. Just as in his homeland, where thousands of people would come from hundreds of miles away for the same reason.
To witness his rainbows.
And so we gathered, the young man who carried rainbows and those of us who were drawn to him. We gathered in a warm shrine room. We gathered in a bitter cold tent. We sang, and then we listened.
It is like a fairy tale to be here, he said. For the first time, he said, I begin to feel that I am free. You must not think that you are ever separate from me, he said. You have been in my heart before I even came here; you will be in my heart when I am gone; I will hold you in my heart for always.
And he said more. He said that both samsara and nirvana are experienced by the mind, so that is what we mean by the equality of samsara and nirvana. He said that the mind has two aspects, stillness and movement. The stillness of mind is like a light; the movement of mind is like thoughts. And so he pointed the way to a secret, the secret of how the mind works.
And he smiled. He smiled a lot! And he laughed. And so did we.
And day after day, rainbows followed the young man. Rainbows on the highway. Double rainbows. Bright rainbows. Rainbows around the sun.
And when the young man left, the hundreds of us who had come to see him left, too. But something was different for us all, now. Something magical. Something like a fairy tale.
We began to feel that we were not separate from the young man. We began to feel that we carried the young man in our hearts, even though he was gone. We began to feel that we would hold him in our hearts for always.
We began, for the first time, to feel free.
We began to carry rainbows.
Inspired by His Holiness Karmapa's first visit to the United States
Written at the Summer Solstice/June 19, 2008
Originally published in KTD's newsletter, "Zampa," Fall 2008