From The Under 35 Project: “If I Met Buddha on the Road”

Marie Rose White on what being ”Buddhist” really means to her.

If I met Buddha on the road, would he care whether or not I called myself a Buddhist?

Would it matter whether I identified as Theravada, Mahayana, Vajrayana, Zen, Tibetan, Pure Land……

Would he care if I chanted sutras correctly or whether I practiced Tonglen vs. Zazen?

Would it matter if I looked the part, wearing saffron robes, or robes at all? What if I wore my hair long, and had on a short skirt that day?

If I met Buddha on the road, would I slow down enough to even recognize him? Or would I leave him in my wake as I raced to catch the bus?

I’m new to this highway, to this Dharma road. I haven’t chosen a tradition. Or maybe no tradition has chosen me… I do not have a formal teacher. But I find teachers everywhere. In the books I read, the online communities to which I am so fortunate to have access, and in less likely places as well. I’ve met Buddha on the road in all different shapes, sizes, and incarnations.

I met him in Detroit once, when on my way home from the bar at 3 a.m., I saw a man stop in the middle of stealing a car to help a woman whose boyfriend had just pushed her out of the car into the street.

And in Alaska, when thanks to a stubborn moose smack dab in the center of the highway, our morning commute came to a halt for 20 minutes.  We all got out of our cars, talked to each other, and experienced the morning for the first time that day exactly the way it was at that moment.  Moose and all.

I met him in California, when, while fighting with a (now ex-) boyfriend, I saw with a soul-searing clarity how deeply words could wound myself and others, and vowed to never again purposely use them as a weapon.

I met him in a parking lot in Denver when everybody, including an old man carrying an oxygen tank, dropped everything to help a little boy chase down his dog that was making a dash for a busy street.

Maybe with time, and a stronger need for discipline/focus and a deepening of practice, I’ll settle into a tradition. I can see there being comfort in alignment. Like sinking into that groove you’ve lovingly worn into your sofa, or putting on an old t-shirt that still smells like your lover after they’ve left for the day. I can see the value in a long term teacher/student relationship, the same way friendships, marriages and family bonds can mature with age.

But until then, the road itself is my practice, my lineage, my teaching, and I meet Buddha there every time I look for him.

I meet Buddha on the road every time I meet myself… even when it is only part way.

Marie Rose White grew up Catholic in Detroit, and after college, she left to live and work all over the United States. She’s not sure what or where she’ll be next year, but right now, she’s in Denver.

To see the rest of our Under 35 Project posts, click here. To read more and submit your own work, visit the project’s website.


  1. Ashiata Shiemash says

    "And indeed, as my detailed research made clear to me, during the period when the inner psyche of the beings on that part of the surface of the Earth was guided by this genuine Messenger from Above, Saint Buddha, those consequences so maleficent for them once more began to disappear from the presences of many of them.

    "But to the sorrow of every Individual with Pure Reason of any gradation whatever and to the misfortune of the three-brained beings of all succeeding generations who arise on that planet, the first descendants of the contemporaries of this genuine Messenger from Above, Saint Buddha, fell victim to that evil property of their psyche, namely 'wiseacring' — still one of the chief results of the abnormally established conditions of ordinary being existence there — and began to wiseacre about all his indications and counsels, and this time to 'superwiseacre' so thoroughly that all that reached the beings of the third and fourth generations who arise on that planet was what our honorable Mullah Nasr Eddin defines by the words: 'Only information about its specific smell.'

    "Little by little they so completely changed these indications and counsels of his that should their saintly author reappear there and for some reason or other wish to learn about them, he would never even suspect that he himself had given these indications and counsels.

    "Here I cannot refrain from expressing my essence-grief at that strange practice of your favorites, which in the course of many of their centuries has gradually become, as it were, lawful in the process of their ordinary existence. This peculiar practice, already firmly established there, served to distort all the true indications and exact counsels of Saint Buddha, and thus created yet another factor for the dilution of their psyche."