Dare to Be Different Today

A bridge, a lamp, a raft


We all need a lamp to light the way

How often do you wake up and say, ‘Today I will be different!’ But by the time you close your eyes for slumber that night you look back once again on a day spent much the same as the last few hundred.


Sometimes we need more than the idea. We need hints or suggestions or dot points. We need a template to follow.


I found a template.


It’s believed to be written by the Buddhist monk Shantideva at Nālandā Monastic University in India c. 700 AD as part of a text on enlightenment translated as A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life.


Bodhisattva is a Sanskrit word for a person devoted to awakening and acting for the benefit of all that lives.


May I be a guard for those who need protection

A guide for those on the path

A boat, a raft, a bridge for those who wish to cross the flood

May I be a lamp in the darkness

A resting place for the weary

A healing medicine for all who are sick

A vase of plenty, a tree of miracles

And for the boundless multitudes of living beings

May I bring sustenance and awakening

Enduring like the earth and sky

Until all beings are freed from sorrow

And all are awakened.


It’s beautiful. It’s worth reading aloud to oneself every morning.


But it’s also daunting. A guide, a guard, a bridge, a lamp. A source of restfulness, abundance and miracles.


How can I be all these things?


Perhaps it might be a good idea to break it down, to choose to be one thing each day . . .


This morning I read it and decide that today I’ll be a Tree of Miracles. I was going to opt to be a Vase of Plenty, but funds are low. Being a Tree of Miracles sounds easier than giving away money I don’t have.


But how do I go about being a Tree of Miracles? Do I wait for someone to ask me for one? What if someone needs a miracle that I can’t produce? And what is a miracle anyway?


The Oxford Dictionary defines miracle as: an extraordinary and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore attributed to a divine agency. It uses the example of someone rising from the grave. (Hmm. I don’t think I could pull that one off.)



Miracles can happen at funerals

I recall an article written years ago by a newly ordained young minister about performing his first graveside service. Although nervous, he completed the official readings in a firm, loving voice. But he felt inadequate as he approached the grieving widow afterwards. What should he say? What words would suit this sad occasion? He took her outstretched hand in both of his and patted it, saying the first thing that popped into his head: ‘Everything will be alright.’


He writhed inwardly, thinking how paltry these words were. But the widow’s grief lifted for a moment. She smiled and said, ‘Thank you. That’s what my husband always told me when things were hard. It’s as if he’s speaking to me from the grave.’


That’s a miracle.


Miracles happen when we step aside and let the divine act through us.


Getting into my car and driving to town with the intention of being a Tree of Miracles doesn’t work. What this beautiful piece by Shantideva is all about is being present in the moment, and allowing the divine essence that you are to express what this moment would most benefit from.


The symbolism of a bridge could, in the reality of everyday life, manifest as a smile you send the way of someone who needs it at that moment more than you’ll ever know. You could be a lamp to someone who feels understood because you took the time to shut down your own busy thoughts to listen to them. A raft could be a letter you post containing thoughtful words to someone you’ve been estranged from for years.


A smile. Attentive listening. A letter. In this busy world these things are miracles.


May I be a guard for those who need protection

A guide for those on the path

A boat, a raft, a bridge for those who wish to cross the flood

May I be a lamp in the darkness

A resting place for the weary

A healing medicine for all who are sick

A vase of plenty, a tree of miracles . . .


You can’t live this text all at once. But you can be what the moment requires.


You can only be one thing at a time.


Just be what this moment requires of you.


Let the divine through.


That’s the miracle.


With love, Marlane

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