Once upon a time in Ancient China, the Emperor told his ministers that he wished to visit a temple to offer his prayers to the Buddha.
One of the ministers, who was particularly adept at flattery, said, “Your Majesty does not need to visit the temple.”
“Is that so?” The Emperor was surprised at being contradicted. “Why not?”
The minister bowed deeply..”The essence of the Buddha is the compassionate heart. Your Majesty is constantly worried about the common people out of pure compassion. Therefore, Your Majesty is already a living Buddha and does not need to visit the temple.”
“Interesting.” Said the Emperor. “That reminds me of a story. Let me share it with you. It goes like this.
“There was a devout Buddhist who had only one wish for life, and that was to see the Guan Yin Bodhisattva. He travelled to many places and studied many sutras, looking for a way to find her.
“After years of effort, he finally succeeded. At a holy place far from home, the Bodhisttva appeared before him in a blaze of heavenly glory. He fell to his knees in awe.
“Guan Yin asked him. “Why have you come such a long way to look for me?”
”The man said. “Merciful Guan Yin, I only wish to ask you a question.”
“Very well,’ Guan Yin said. ‘Go ahead and ask.’
“When I am in trouble, I pray to you and ask you for help. Do you also pray when you feel troubled?’
“Yes, Guan Yin replied.
“To whom do you pray?’
“I pray to the Guan Yin Bodhisattva.’
“But…you are the Guan Yin Bodhisttava! Why do you pray to yourself?’
“Because it is better to ask yourself for help than to ask someone else,’ said Guan Yin with a smile. Then, she disappeared in a blaze of heavenly glory.
“What I have learned from this story,” said the Emperor to his ministers. “is that the Buddha lives in our heart. When we go to the temple we pray, we are in fact praying to ourselves and asking ourselves for help. That is why I shall override your objection and proceed to the temple today.”
The Emperor was very wise in not letting the ministers feed his ego. Because ancient Emperors wielded absolute power, they tended to be surrounded by sycophants. Many Emperors could be swayed by skillful and lavish prais, but this particular Emperor had enough self-awareness to guard against it. He did not let his ego gain control. Such Emperors were few and far in between.
The Emperor touched on a universal truth. The Buddha is a human being who becomes enlightened. Therefore, the potential for Buddahood exists in all human hearts. If it was true for the minister to point to the Buddha in the Emperor, then the same was also true for the minister and everyone else. We will all become Buddha’s in the future- it isn’t a matter of if, but when.