Narcissus and the Buddha by Alejandro N. Marrero 4/7/2021
A long time ago there was a person who came to the shores of a great and calm lake every morning, afternoon and evening. They did this always to admire their outer beauty in the lake’s reflection. This person was blessed and attained the difficult to achieve precious human rebirth. They admired their outer beauty so much they were named after their vanity. Their nickname was Narcissus.
Narcissus was strong and beautiful. Indeed their past life’s deeds were so benevolent they were reborn without physical flaws. With smooth, soft, pore-less and luminous skin no one could compare to the the beauty of Narcissus. Or so they thought.
One day the Buddha was washing his alms bowl in the lake near Narcissus. The Buddha finished cleaning their bowl and was making his way back to his disciples following the shoreline. The Buddha then saw this person Narcissus walking their way. The Buddha was radiant even in his plain saffron robes and hair held in a simple top knot. Narcissus felt he has finally met a heavenly being with characteristics greater than them.
At seeing the Buddha, Narcissus bowed and asked, “Radiant One, you are beautiful and luminous like the waxing moon over a lotus pond. How is it you’ve become so handsome and have unearthly beauty?”
The Buddha replied, “I’m a lamp for those in the dark, a map for the lost, and a bridge for those whom wish to cross the oceans of cyclic existence.”
Narcissus, was confused. ‘What is this radiant being speaking of?’ He wondered.
“Please tell me Master, what is the secret to your youthful appearance and radiant beauty? In this way I too can become as radiant as the moon, stars and sky like you,” inquired Narcissus.
The Buddha’s omniscience and compassion knew no bounds and in kindness answered, “I have meditated for thirty-six days under the Bodhi tree. Once I had purified my karma I stood firmly rooted in meditative concentration on the meaning of life. To live is to experience suffering. To be born, get sick, grow old and eventually die. This is an endless wheel to those who do not understand the cause of suffering and it’s remedy. Through piercing the veils of dualistic clinging, ignorance and attachment to reality I’ve reached this enlightened state,” the Buddha replied.
Then the Buddha explained The Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path. The Buddha seeing promise in Narcissus also granted the instructions of Mahamudra and Bodhicitta to Narcissus.
Narcissus, was grateful and very moved by the Buddha’s words. He went to the embankment of the lake with its calm waters and lotus flowers to contemplate the Buddha’s words. He realized as he saw the moon in the reflection of the lake that though the moon seemed within his grasp however it was not. It was like a mirage, appearing close but not real like it’s reflection. Narcissus then realized the Buddha’s teachings about the true nature of reality. That beauty, light and power were nothing compared to the righteous glory of the Stainless One’s council and beautiful beyond words Dharma.
Narcissus then sat by the lake. Their eyes down cast to meditate inwardly on the Dharma. With time and effort Narcissus experienced the meditative bliss of Samadhi and Vipassana. They realized through Meditative concentration that all appearances are created by and born from the mind. Narcissus, also realized how their own Arrogance had been contrary to the goal of enlightenment. Therefore, Narcissus stopped looking at the reflection of his outer self in the still and calm lake and kept his attention inwards. Realizing the true primordial nature of mind Narcissus reached the state of an Arhat and found a bliss of radiant calm and happiness.
One day a poorly dressed flower maiden was walking to the lakes edge to pick flowers to sell at the market. However, the Winter was strong this year and had irregular weather. Therefore no flowers grew like usual on the lakes shore for her to pick. As Narcissus understood that the flower maiden needed flowers to survive they chose to compassionately think of a solution that would benefit her livelihood. At this selfless thought, compassion stirred strongly in Narcissus’s heart. Narcissus then achieved the rainbow body of Bodhicitta and perfect enlightenment. Their body became light and ascended directly into Nirvana. Still, Narcissus upon entering the land of endless bliss left behind a compassionate token for the Flower Maiden’s livelihood. The flower now known as the Daffodil.
To the delight of the Flower Maiden the flower was yellow like early morning sunbeams and its heart was colored like the summer sun. She took cuttings of the Flower that was a manifestation and remanence of an enlightened being and sold a basket full of flowers for a good price. She felt fortunate and blessed for these were the earliest flowers of before even spring. The Maiden knowing this precious plant should be preserved decided to cultivate it. She cared for the flower so much she watered them every year and every spring while other flowers were dormant was rewarded with more. Since she loved and appreciated the Daffodills she would only pick a few, water the rest and leave the rest for the following spring. For if you like a flower you pick it. However if you love a flower you watered it.
With the Maiden’s earnings in her pocket she came across the Buddha. She was shocked and amazed to run into the path of the renowned Buddha and his disciples. She offered the Buddha a sachet full of Daffodils. Upon seeing this, the Buddha was very grateful and explained how the daffodils came to be and grow first upon every calm lake, forest, creek, river, or trail early Spring and late winter’s shore.
At this point the Maiden was overjoyed understanding the gift that was the Daffodil. At hearing the tale of Narcissus and his devotion to cleansing himself of all flaws by realizing the true nature of reality and the heart of compassion that helped her during her time of need the Maiden opened her heart to the benevolent teachings of the Dharma. Shortly after with Bodhicitta in her heart the flower maiden reached enlightenment following the compassionate teachings of The Buddha and the story of Narcissus.
Now eons have passed and every Spring, the first blades to pierce through the frost of ignorance are the Daffodils Narcissus manifested for the Maiden through his great compassion. Now, when Winter seemingly has no end, you’ll find blades of green sprout through the snow. These then bloom into Daffodils to remind everyone that change is the only constant in the universe until one has reached the deathless state of the Enlightenment and cultivates Bodhicitta, the Compassionate Heart.
Now whenever you see the Daffodils in their beauty which herald the waning of Winter and beginning of Spring, think of the compassion that birthed them. Water your mind with loving kindness and compassion. Meditate on the true nature of reality and the luminous beauty of Bodhicitta taught by the Buddha. In this way you, as Narcissus, and the Flower Maiden can reach enlightenment. The state of mind that is truly beautiful, with everlasting peace and for the benefit of all sentient beings. Till one day you cultivate a garden of beautiful virtue for all beings to benefit from.