Buddha's Eyes

Buddha's family name was not Buddha. It was Gautama Siddhartha. "Buddha" means awake. People called him the Buddha because he said he was awake and he was so obviously awake. I often wonder what he was like. I remember getting on the St. Charles Avenue streetcar in New Orleans when I was a teenager, about seventeen years old, going somewhere with my friend Johnny Tommeraas. We sat down on one of the long wooden seats that run lengthwise down the car. At the next stop a boy about our age, maybe a little older, got on whom we had never seen before. He sat down on the seat opposite us. He didn't move his eyes much at all, but they seemed to take in everything and to be intensely interested in everything. He looked like he was about to smile but he never did smile, and his eyes just caressed everything with a look that was both sad and happy. It looked like he was just poised to help. His body was very quiet; he didn't move, but he didn't not move. He was just -- light. It was as if he occupied space in a way completely different from the way Johnny and I occupied space, sitting there hunched over, teenage bodybuilders we both were, hulking, watching him, utterly fascinated. I felt as if my whole life had changed, that I had been introduced to a totally different way of being. He only stayed on the streetcar for a few stops, and when he got off Johnny and I looked at each other and said, "Did you see that guy? He was so cool! Did you see his eyes?"

Maybe Buddha's eyes were like that. Maybe people took one look at him and knew their lives could be different, that they could wake up to something that Buddha had awakened to, wake up to this world and to each other. So they stayed and listened to what he had to say, but I'll bet it was more the way he looked than what he had to say that woke people up, like the boy on the streetcar. So never worry about what to say, or what to do. Just pay attention to everything, all the time. Then at that moment, who are you?