I read that the Dalai Lama was to speak at a
conference, I noticed that his name was preceded
by the letters H.H. I asked someone
whatthose letters stood for, and I was told, His
Holiness. Its also the respectful title bestowed upon
the Pope. I began to wonder why the Dalai Lama and the Pope
got to be His Holiness, and not the rest of us.
To be sure, these spiritual leaders are very holy but
are they more holy than anyone else? Do the Dalai
Lama or the Pope have any more God in them than the people
who mop their floors? I imagine they would agree
that we are all equally holy in the eyes of God. I met a man who called everyone he met,
Buddha. How are you doing
today, Buddha? he would ask me.
Beautiful sunset, dont you think,
Buddha? At first I felt jarred by his
magnanimous appellation. Then I began to really like it. It felt better
This month we celebrate Buddhas birthday.
Buddha was very holy.
Oneof his students asked Buddha, Are you
No, answered Buddha.
Then are you a healer?
No, Buddha replied.
Then are you a teacher? the student
No, I am not a teacher.
Then what are you? asked the student,
I am awake, Buddha replied.
The goal of Buddhism, like any self-respecting
spiritual path, is not to have titles or to make
distinctions between degrees of holiness; it is to wake up. I
love the famous Buddhist admonition, If you
see the Buddha on the road, kill him. This means
that if you try to single out the Buddha and
confine him to one form at the expense of all others, you have
severely missed the point, and you must do away
with your concept that this is the Buddha and all else is
The story is told of a holy man who lived in a
large house on top of a remote mountain. Over time news of the holy mans greatness
spread throughout the land, and many seekers made
their way over the mountains in hopes of having even a
brief moment with this saintly being. Each aspirant was greeted at the door by a
servant, who ushered him or her into the house,
and guided the visitor through several rooms. After a few minutes the servant and aspirant
arrived at another door, which led out of the
back of the house. The servant opened the door andindicated to the
visitor that it was time to leave.
But I was hoping to have even a few minutes
with the holy man! the aspirant would utter
You just did, answered the holy man
as he closed the door. The insecure mind takes refuge in hierarchies of
spirituality, seeking to segment the universe
into levels of power and worth. The Spirit Of Love, on the
other hand, will have none of the hierarchy game;
all is God, all is powerful, all is spiritual, and all
As the third Zen Patriarch Hsin Hsin Ming
declared, The great way is not difficult
for those who has no preferences. Make the
slightest distinction, however, and heaven and
earth are set infinitely apart.
The His Holiness concept got me to thinking
about other appellations of respect. Take
Your Honor, the title attributed to judges. Certainly judges merit honor, but are the other
people in the courtroom any lesshonorable? I suggest that judges address the criminals
before them as Your Honor as well;
perhaps this practice would bring forth the honor within them, Most criminals
were not treated with respect as children;
beginning now might call forth their innate integrity.
A Course in Miracles tells us that all actions
are either pure expressions of love or calls for
love. Addressing criminals as Your
Honor might begin to satisfy that call in a
healthy way. Then there is Your
Majesty, Your Grace, and
offered to royalty.
Does that mean that everyone else is not
majestic, graceful, or high? Hopefully not. Ive been thinking about what
title I would like. I choose Your
Eminence. I like that because it implies that I emanate. That is my goal: to emanate. To emanate life,
light, and joy. I dont care thatmuch about being an Honor,
Grace, Highness, or even Holiness;
Eminence really makes my boat float.
So from now on, if you
write, fax, email, or talk to me, I respectfully
request that you address me as Your Eminence. And when it
comes time for me to address you, Ill do
the same. Either we all emanate together, or none at all.
Alan Cohen is the author of 14 popular
inspirational books, including the award-winning A Deep Breath of Life.
To order Alan's new book Happily Even After or
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