A meaningful moment during a retreat with Ken McLeod:
I just returned from the Ken McLeod weekend retreat on the Heart Sutra. We were studying the “longer” version where the Buddha is present. Ken asked, “What is the Buddha doing there?” The Buddha doesn’t do anything in the sutra other than sit there and listen to the conversation between Avalokiteśvara and Shariputra. So he invited two people up to the front to re-enact the scene. My friend Laurie volunteered to play the part of Avalokiteśvara, and a woman volunteered to play the part of Shariputra. “Ok,” said Ken, “Shariputra, ask a practice question to Avalokiteśvara.”
“Do I have sit formally every day or can I just be mindful in everyday life?” asked Shariputra.
Avalokiteśvara answered somewhat flippantly, “If you can remain mindful throughout your life, then you don't need to sit. But I haven’t been able to do that.”
Next Ken invited someone up to play the part of the Buddha to sit there serenely between them, slightly off to the side.
“Now go through it again, ask the same question and give your answer.” said Ken.
The Shariputra character asked the same question again, but it was phrased more deeply this time.
Avalokiteśvara bowed to Shariputra and started to answer, “Thank you for your question. If you can remain mindful throughout your life…” and stopped.
Ken turned to him and asked, “You don’t want to give the same answer anymore, do you?”
“No.” answered Avalokiteśvara.
“Give the answer that you want to give.”
“If you can remain mindful throughout your life, you may not need to sit, but if you do not sit, you may not be able to remain mindful throughout your life.”
There was a audible murmur in the room and a palpable relaxing.
“Shariputra, how did you experience that?”
“With the first answer, I felt like even though it was what I wanted to hear, I didn’t feel good about it. The second answer I felt a relaxing that it was the truth, even though it’s not what I wanted to hear.”
It was clear that the presence of the “Buddha,” even though simply represented by a practitioner sitting there serenely, changed the interaction to be more honest and real.
Everyone went to sit down again, and Ken drove home the point:Source: No One Can Give You Wisdom
“And by the way, Buddha is always present.”
Note: Here's a similar interaction from a workshop on the Heart Sutra given by Ken McLeod in Los Angeles in 2008.
An interview on the Heart Sutra (Santa Fe Radio Cafe)