Buddha Eyes

Posted by on August 16, 2015


When we are not emotionally bound to any worldly thing, we are free to choose. It is the decision made by Siddhartha Gautama when he rose one night and left his family and his life of luxury behind. A decision is not a guess or the unquestioned adherence to rules. It is the crucial dilemma of Sister Simplice in Les Miserables and of Kausika, the Brahman, sitting where the rivers meet. It is in fact a telltale sign of liberation and the knowledge of the Divine.

In his excellent translation of the Mahabharata, William Buck includes this confounding anecdote:

Kausika the brahmana, who is now roasting in Hell, set his heart upon Virtue and in all his life never told a lie, even in jest. Once, having seen their helpless victim run past him and hide, Kausika, sitting there where the rivers meet, answered the thieves, “That way.”

In his voluminous Les Miserables, Victor Hugo creates a beautiful character, Sister Simplice, a Sister of Charity, who faces a dilemma similar to Kausika. She is vowed to obey the Commandment to tell the truth. But when asked where an innocent man is, she lies and misdirects his persecutor.

William Buck includes the scriptural admonition: So be as the swan, which drinks from milk and water mixed together, whichever one he choose, leaving the other behind.

Clearly, Sister Simplice was able to separate the milk from the water; and Kausika was not.

Before we discuss the circumstances of the situation in which Sister Simplice makes her choice, we also need to introduce two other characters, the hero, Jean Valjean and his nemesis, Inspector Javert.

Jean Valjean, in his youth committed thefts and jail-escapes and is therefore a fugitive. Years pass, he has assumed a new identity and is now a town Mayor. He is a rich man who lives a virtuous life, using his position, wealth and power, to do good for others.

Inspector Javert, Valjean’s nemesis and former prison guard, suspects the true identity of the Mayor, and is obsessed by worldly authority and the need to bring Valjean to justice.

As Hugo records the scene, Valjean is hiding in a room:

The door opened. Javert entered. The nun did not raise her eyes. She was praying. The candle was on the chimney-piece, and gave but very little light. Javert caught sight of the nun and halted in amazement.

On perceiving the sister, his first movement was to retire.

But there was also another duty which bound him and impelled him imperiously in the opposite direction. His second movement was to remain and to venture on at least one question.

This was Sister Simplice, who had never told a lie in her life. Javert knew it, and held her in special veneration in consequence.

“Sister,” said he, “are you alone in this room?”

A terrible moment ensued, during which…she… felt as though she should faint.

The sister raised her eyes and answered:–


“Then,” resumed Javert, “you will excuse me if I persist; it is my duty; you have not seen a certain person–a man–this evening? He has escaped; we are in search of him–that Jean Valjean; you have not seen him?”

The sister replied:–


“Pardon me,” said Javert, and he retired with a deep bow.

The difficulty and the wisdom that Sister Simplice and Kausika face are the same yet Kausika is fixed to an idea of virtue that blinds him. He chooses, but his choice leads to hell. Sister Simplice is not fixed to her ideas of virtue which allows wisdom to rule. She chooses, but her choice leads to paradise.

Both Inspector Javert and Kausika share a common spiritual illness. They suffer from spiritual certainty. They foolishly think that ideas of right and wrong lead to paradise. Both are in the dark. They are like anchored ships that have not unfurled the sails.

Sister Simplice knows something they don’t know. In this one moment Sister Simplice finds she is at sea, no longer anchored to the way she “should” respond. She is the Buddha Self saying “yes,” saying “no.” All of the speculation, supposition, and guesswork are gone and she decides. Her response shows she is free. She does not rely on duty, obligation or rules. Her sense doors are of no use, she relies on Buddha eyes.

How do we know the wise choice to make?

Surprisingly, the answer is quite personal and much like Sister Simplice’s decision is not an unchanging set of rules that are written in stone and guaranteed. The simple answer is to live out the life of the Buddha Self, morning, noon and night. That is the simple answer. There is no other. It is not to debate, argue, review, intellectualize, explain, defend, or refute the pros and cons of whether to lie or not.

When we are the living Buddha Self, we know. Others may determine our choice as good or bad, but we no longer concern ourselves with what others may say. Saints often act quite bizarrely when measured by worldly standards of right and wrong, but saints do not give a damn about measures of the world because they truly hear and live by a different drum. The caveat is “don’t pretend to know how to live the Buddha Self and don’t pretend to be a saint.”

Wake up and see with a Buddha eye.




Yao Xiang Shakya, Buddha Eyes © 2015

Yao Xiang Shakya Buddha Love Image © 2015


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