The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Monday, December 03, 2007

A letter to the editor

My very dear friend Charles Johnson writes often of his experiences on the road of meditation, specifically his deeply held Buddhist tradition. In response to one of his recent articles, the following letter was sent to the editor. I post it intact:


Nov. 28, 2007

Dear Editor of Shambhala Sun,

I wanted to thank you for the wonderful work that you and The Sun have been doing and to comment on the January issue.

Although I have read of the Buddha’s life many times before, the spin that Charles Johnson put on it in the story “Prince of Ascetics” had a profound impact on me.

I am a Buddhist and also a convicted child molester. That is something that I have spent the last four years in prison coming to terms with.

For many years I have been on the path and have obtained many benefits from my practice, but as I read the story of Buddha holding his vigil throughout the night as Mara assailed him I realized that was exactly what I had been avoiding doing.

It has been a drawn out process dealing with the acceptance of my crimes and much of the emotion and habitual tendencies that were at the root of the cause, I buried and repressed into my subconscious mind where they plagued me on a level that was deeper than my awareness.

The first step was to admit to myself of the problem and this was the hardest thing to do. There was a tremendous freedom in facing the fact but I was still left not knowing where to go from there.

After reading the story in your magazine and having a heart-to-heart talk with a close friend about my crimes I was left feeling emotionally assailed myself by all those repressed feelings that I had been unable to deal with. At first I began to do as always and react in an unhealthy way and repress them again but the thought of the Buddha as he sat with the intention of not moving again until he had broken free inspired me to try the same.

What I faced was the very worst parts of myself. I re-lived each crime in my victims place and felt the sufferings those acts caused and all the future suffering that was created by it. I also felt the weight of the suffering of all the children in the world that have had to endure any like circumstances. This was my first true practice of “Tong-len” and I tried to breathe all that suffering into myself and breathe out comfort to my victims and to all those throughout the world in torment and pain.

At some point as I sat there I realized that the Buddha was there with me, and I was shown that he had been with me the whole time. I re-lived those same painful moments as I had done earlier in the night except this time I saw that he was there with me, not judging me or my actions. He was simply observing.

That was when I realized that I was the Buddha! I was observing my own actions without judgment or shame as I had always looked upon myself before, and I saw that it was I who sat in battle with Mara and I resolved that I would not move from that spot until I had mastered my self, and that is what I did.

The Buddha’s story inspired in me the courage to sit with my own demons and also the vision to realize that there is an end to suffering for all of us who choose to follow, be it saint or sinner.

He is called Tatha-gata; or, He who has gone beyond…

And it is I who humbly follow.


Buck Stevens #333000
CWCC PO Box 500 3B 26B
Mitchells, VA.

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