There used to be – what many would claim – a beggar who sat regularly on the sidewalk near the front door of a place I used to work, his back against the front of the shore. Though, certainly, it seemed, he was not at his best, down on his luck, at least – if more compassionately, more humanely, more generously regarded – despite and still, there was a quietness about him, a serenity, a self-possession. Something in him encouraged my affection, my respect; something about him inspired both reverence and wonder. I did not ignore him as I passed, but looked deeply, searchingly into his eyes. Our destinies had collided.
One day, uncharacteristically, as I was entering the store, he called me to him. I knelt down on a knee next to him, not at a distance, but close enough for him to whisper into my ear. ‘I am Buddha,’ he said. ‘I feel your goodness, and I am grateful.’
My eyes glistened with tears. His clothes were dirty, but his hands were clean. He took my hand in his, held it for a moment, as if to comfort me, to reassure me; then, as if he had always known me, yet in another life, in blessing, it seemed, he brought my hand first to his forehead then to his heart.
I believed him. I believe him still. Belief determines reality.
One has to believe. It will never happen, if one does not believe.