Monthly Archives: January 2017

The light will work its own good work

Odilon Redon BuddhaAll weekend Kaspa & I were on a training weekend led by two experienced ERT trainers – psychotherapists who use their own bodies in relationship with their clients. This includes movement, paying attention to the sensations in our bodies, inviting our clients to amplify any symptoms they might have, and other forms of ‘conversation’.

We learnt new ways of working and we did practice sessions (using real material from our lives) with our fellow students. More than anything, the leaders welcomed us all and created a safe space where we were able to be vulnerable, support each other and discover new things about ourselves. This kind of learning can be pretty intense and often involves pain, sadness and other emotion as reorganisation happens at a very deep level.

Last night I slept for 13 hours. This morning I had a dream in which there was a young girl who’d been wronged somehow at work. I talked to her, accompanied by an expert in workplace legal issues. I started to explain at length to the girl how my colleague would help her, but then I realised it wasn’t necessary as the expert could and would do that herself. I told the girl she’d be safe with the expert, and handed her over.

The young girl was a young part of me that needs healing, and that hasn’t had the necessary resources to do so. The expert was the new knowledge (knowledge doesn’t quite cover it – something much more visceral, that includes courage and love) I came away with after the weekend course.

The realisation that I didn’t need to be the middle-woman between these two parts was a real revelation to me. The expert would be able to look after the girl without me keeping an eye on them both, controlling things. This phrase from Tai Shi Chih’s prayer came to mind:

“The light will work its own good work
If only we will trust it.”

How do we lean into the light?

This weekend I made an effort to drive to the course and spend time with people who also trust the light – not explicitly the light of the Buddha, but the light of the body’s great wisdom, which might be the same thing anyway. As I spent time with them, and in the sacred space they created, I was able to relax.

As I relaxed, the light got on with doing the job it knows how to do. Reaching the scared and wounded parts of me. Bathing them with care and attention. Allowing them to unfold and begin to give off a light of their own.

I hope you can catch some of this light as you read this.

The light will works its own good work, if only we will trust it.

Namo Amida Bu.

Dwelling in faith

Just as you areThe temple’s word for the year is faith.

Reflecting on life at the temple recently I had the sense that our community members, residents and otherwise, are all deepening their relationship with their own personal koan. I use koan here in the sense of the koan that arises in daily life, rather than the universal cases that are studied in Rinzai.

A more Pureland way of saying this might be something like, ‘People are deepening their relationship both with their bonbu nature and with the Buddha.’

We all have our own bonbu nature. Greed, hate and delusion are universal, but they manifest in each of us in unique ways. Getting to know our own personal bonbu nature has two benefits, the first is that we might be able to do something to smooth off the rough edges. This might be being more mindful, or putting ourselves in better conditions. The second is more profound: we are shown how deeply intractable our karma is, how heavily conditioned we are, and how we are loved by the Buddha in this foolish state. Any changes we manage to make are held in this greater context of a deep appreciation of our foolishness, and more often than not, when we try to change, we fail, and this brings us back to this second realisation again.

It is faith in Amida which allows this process to begin, and to begin to see our foolish nature clearly, and the more clearly we see our foolish nature, and see that we are loved anyway, the more faith we are given.

As we encounter ourselves and the Buddha in this way, a tender heart appears.

This tender heart might feel deep sadness at the things we do to each other and our world, but it also feels kindness as we recognise that we are all in the same boat, and all loved just as we are.

If we do change for the better in this lifetime, it is because of the dharmic gifts we have received from our friends, teachers, and from the Buddhas. When we examine ourselves in this spirit, rather than reaching for the next stage in self-improvement, we can feel gratitude for what we have already received, and make an offering of what we already are and have to the Buddhas.

When others encounter our community as we each engage in our practice in this way, they are entering into a Pure Land. Pure Land is a translation of a word which literally means ‘Buddha-field’: when we dwell in faith, the Buddha appears, not just for us, but for those around us too.

It is not a perfect Pure Land, like Amida’s, sometimes the lower realms do manifest here, but there is a very real opportunity for people joining our community to encounter the Buddha.

The more we engage with our koans, and the more deeply we dwell in faith, the more clearly this Pureland appears in our midst.