Ango Week 12: Bodhisattva Imagination

December 12, 2022

Image: The BZC sangha throwing petals at the end of the 2022 Rohatsu sesshin at Boundless Mind Temple in Brooklyn

A weekly message from dharma teachers Sarah Dōjin Emerson and Charlie Korin Pokorny in support of the 2022 Fall Practice Period.

Imagination is powerful. It is essential for our humanness…all imaginative productions rise up from the unconscious to expand the soul, to help us feel who we really are and what the world really is. … The truth is, all that is creative and ennobling in us ultimately sources in the imagination….To go beyond the possible into the impossible, we need to imagine it.

…I advocate the development of the imagination as a necessity for human survival and thriving in times ahead. The practice of imagination has to be more than a good idea or an aspiration. It needs a path of development, a process, a discipline to support it.
—Norman Fischer from The World Could be Otherwise

In the beginning of the book The World Could Be Otherwise, Norman Fischer describes what he calls Bodhisattva imagination—the role that imagination plays in the engagement of Bodhisattva practice in the world of suffering humans. Basic Buddhist concepts: inter-being, non-duality, and liberation, in part require human beings to think beyond the confines of our habitual mind, to attune more fully, as Norman points to, to who and what we are; to liberate thinking from socially constructed limits.

This week, as many people at BZC and around the world come together to celebrate Buddha’s awakening, arguably, it took imagination for the historical Buddha to wake up to the reality that they, together with all beings, attained complete, Mother Earth-sanctioned awakening to how all things are connected.

As with love, our hope is that you can feel a progression throughout the Ango that continues now- from caring for and attuning to the body, cultivating rest, joy and love to how imagination builds a bridge across to liberation.  So this week the practice possibility is to take time for imagination.  Standing on the ground of attunement and care, standing on the ground of love, now allow the mind to open to what’s possible to imagine in this world coming from that love and care and attunement? What does liberation look like? What about practice? What does justice look like? And then open into more concrete questions—if we come from love and attunement, what do our shared systems look like: Education, health care, government, food production? What does housing look like? Streets? Vehicles? Neighborhoods? What does livelihood look like through this lens? Aging and dying? Relationship? What does your day-to-day look like when you ground in love and let imagination consider what’s possible?

Can we imagine into the Buddha’s awakening discovery—that all awakenings, in all times, are shared with all beings? And can we find ourselves in this reality?

We won’t offer more resources or practices this week beyond this inquiry, to encourage all of us, whether we are formally sitting Rohatsu sesshin or not, to be in a wide, quiet, spacious imagination saturated field, where real freedom- in this lifetime, in this world of complexity and suffering- is possible to see.