A “teaching story” by Jack Kornfield recently came to my attention. It arrives from northern Thailand, where there was a great Buddhist temple and an ancient clay statue of the Buddha.
It was not the most beautiful statue, or even the oldest, but it was revered because it had withstood wars and natural disasters, and still endured.
At some point, one of the temple monks noticed that the statue had begun to crack. It was clear that soon it would need to be repaired and re-painted.
After a summer of hot dry weather, the cracks became worse. One of the monks shined a light into a particularly deep crack to see how much work would be required. He was amazed when his light bounced off a shining gold surface.
The other monks crowded around, and some began to look into other cracks. Everywhere the light shone it revealed gold. This ordinary old statue was a golden Buddha that had been covered in plaster.
With great joy the monks cleaned off the clay and a luminous golden Buddha now stood at the entrance to their temple.
They imagined that at some time, concerned for the safety of this precious work of art, the monks of old had covered the gold with the clay to protect it. Now the true nature of this lovely object was revealed and pilgrims from all over the world come to show their devotion.
This story has stayed with me because it seems to offer a metaphor for us. How many of us have allowed our essential luminous nature to be covered over?
Maybe we felt we couldn’t let our light shine because of family pressures, or the roles we were expected to play at home or school.
Perhaps when arthritis struck, it was too hard to see our gold, and we sought a layer of protection against disappointment or loss.
When we cover over our true selves for long enough, we may even forget what’s there. We believe we are ordinary, or serviceable — we no longer remember our beautiful essence.
Regardless of the ravages of a disease, or the long hard years of struggle, or the losses we have endured, that beauty remains. We only have to glimpse the light, and be willing to uncover it.
That means letting go of that protective layer. Shedding the old thinking or habits we use to cover and diminish ourselves.
But the rewards are there — not only for each of us individually, but for all who will benefit from witnessing our precious glimmer, and our courage.
Where is your light shining? Where is your beautiful essence?
What would it look like for you to uncover your inner gold and let it shine? We are each needed to make a difference in the world, and this is a way we can begin.