Saints and Buddhas Among Us

How sad to meet the Buddha on the road and not recognize him. How unfortunate to break bread with Jesus and stick him with the check.

Though the man wore short leather pants, a little green hat with a feather and an accordion, he was an enlightened being. Few knew this, but he was found out by the busboys. Between sets of schmaltzy German songs, he might dispense some pearl of wisdom. He was completely at home with himself, and he saw the divine in each person he met. It was observed that as he saw each diner as a being of inestimable worth, regardless of their sometimes boorishness, he was tipped well.

What would happen to us if we began to recognize the possibility that saints and buddhas live among us; that any chance encounter in the grocery line, on the street, or in a restaurant could be with an enlightened being worthy of deep regard and high esteem? Many of us were raised with the belief that each of us is bestowed at birth with the title, miserable sinner. Such a belief is helpful in the areas of humility and contrition, but it can give us a dim view of ourselves and of the rest of humanity. If I am a miserable sinner, why should I bother to treat you, a miserable sinner, very well?

If we see in each person the divine spark, the potential for Buddhahood—see that each is a child of God, we will more naturally be inclined to treat them with respect, compassion and kindness. Not everyone behaves as if they are manifestations of the Supreme Being, but just because they are unaware of the will, it doesn’t mean they don’t have an inheritance coming to them.

Most of us dwell in a cloud of ignorance much of the time. That doesn’t mean the cloud can’t lift and we can’t see things as they really are. We can let go of our attachments to illusion and allow our vision to clear. We can let go of our attachment to hatred and other forms of separateness. We can use our egos as tools to get things done without over identifying with them. We can learn to live according to the way of nature, of natural law, of the Tao, of Dharma, of God’s will, call it what you will. We can expand our compassion to all beings, so that every time a bomb creates collateral damage we recognize that a child of God has been harmed. We can grow awareness that every time we are rude to another person we risk slighting a potential Buddha, an undiscovered saint. We can leave off our self-deprecation that keeps us from being aware of our own true nature.


Take time to meditate upon a being who, for you, represents the highest level of consciousness. This might be Christ, Buddha, Krishna, or some other person who has attained Christ Consciousness, Buddhahood, Krishna Consciousness, or whatever higher consciousness means to you. You could usefully spend a life of meditation directing your mind toward such a being.

As you expand your awareness of this higher level of consciousness, bring to mind the humanity of this highly developed being. Reflect on how they might have performed everyday tasks. Imagine them washing their face, eating, walking, lying down to sleep. Rather than seeing them as a distant and distinctly different kind of being, recognize their human nature. Notice that they are in so many ways like you and the people you see everyday.

Consider that while it is not always apparent that we are in the presence of a holy one, we could be in such a presence more than we know. The sage may appear a fool, the prophet a crackpot; the saint will have no halo visible to the eye. Grant that each person we meet shares a humanity with the best of us all. Know that the least of us contains the breath of divine nature. Acknowledge in your mind and accept in your heart that no matter how ignorant or deluded one of us may be, we are each deserving of compassion.

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© 2002 Tom Barrett