It’s been raining in Southern California. I love the rain. Around here, it is something to be savored because it comes so infrequently. When it rains during the daytime, I often think of the “Herbs” chapter in the Lotus Sutra, where the Buddha describes how rain falls equally on all things, on mountains, rivers, valleys, enriching the grasses, the plants and trees. The rain nourishes all things without discrimination.
Then the Buddha describes himself and his teachings as a great cloud covering everything, “having appeared in the world, for the sake of all living beings,” contemplating all things equally, and sending down the rain of Dharma, filling all the world, enriching all people, and in pouring out this rain, empowering all who receive it become Buddhas.
It’s wonderful allegory that reminds us that everyone has Buddha-nature, and while the dharma rain falls equally and has but one taste, each person absorbs the rain and is nourished by it according to their own capacity. That is how it should be. In this way, universality and individually become one.
When rain falls at night, my thoughts turn in a different direction, they become nourish. I look out the French windows and imagine fuzzy streaks from neon signs reflected on slick, black streets, lonely men huddled in doorways who feel that it’s raining all over the world, lonelier women perhaps also looking out French windows lamenting lost loves, crooks and hustlers with hearts as dark as the shadows, piano players in some dive searching for that perfect note or a perfect fix, private eyes in trench coats with the rain dripping from the wide brim of their fedora – in other words, people who would fit easily between the pages of an old and worn paperback novel . . . the rain in L.A. at night, when the tall palms are black silhouettes against the wet, dark sky, has a strange effect on me, gives me dem ol’ kozmic blues again and I often listen to this song by the Soul Queen of New Orleans, Irma Thomas . . .