It’s 5pm on Sunday. Roshi is chasing a pistachio shell around the kitchen floor – it makes a satisfying noise on the tiles as it skitters away from his patting paws.
In an hour or so we’ll climb the two flights of stairs from our flat up to the shrine room, where we’ll sit in a circle of chairs and listen to each other as we take turns to hold a stone and share about our weeks. The stone warms up as is passed from hands to hands, and so do we. This listening circle will be the fourth temple event this weekend.
Last night I gave a Dharma talk about a Buddhist approach to relationships. I started by proposing that suffering in our relationships is unavoidable, and then used the Four Noble Truths to look at what we can do about that. Energy arises in us in response to this suffering, and we can then choose to harness this energy and ‘do the right thing’ rather than just falling into compulsive, reactive or avoidant behaviours. If we can manage this, a Right Relationship will follow. That’s the cut-down-from-forty-minutes version!
This morning Acharya Susthama led our monthly family service – there were 25 people in the room including 7 little ones, a record. Little Selena helped her mum with the water offerings, and after the service the children all came down into the garden to visit Peter & Poppet bunnies, who were grateful for extra cabbage and strokes.
Then a real treat – some of us left the chaos of conversation, children & cupcakes in the dining room and came downstairs to the living room where Andrew Cheffings led 12 of us in the first session of the Pureland Sangeet Choir. We learnt 3 of the 1000 Pureland hymns he’s written this year (no, I didn’t type too many zeros there) with their sliding Indian melodies and devotional lyrics, accompanied by Andrew on tanpura and his partner Ian on cello (and Caroline on tingsha for the all-important ‘tings’ between Namo Amida Bus). There was a good sprinkling of laughter during the hour and a half we sang. I’ve copied some of the lyrics below and when we’ve practised a bit more we hope to record some of them so you can listen and maybe sing along at home.
By the time we’d come back upstairs the mugs had been washed and the room was cleaner that it had been before everyone arrived. The golden offering bowl was full of money and our hearts were full of the grace of Amida.
The temple enjoys both being full of sangha and returning to silence, as we all do. Kaspa & I will appreciate our quiet Sabbath day tomorrow. Then we’ll start looking forward to our Wednesday night service…
(If you’d like to be sent my Dharma talk on relationships do sign up to Amida Mandala’s mailing list of you haven’t already – if you’d like to receive news of events here tick ‘weekly local news’ too – click here.)
Na-mo A-mi-da Bu, I en-trust my-self to You,
In the garden of the Pure Land,
With the love and faith That of Your own ac-cord And through us, You will rescue all beings-
Na-mo Ami-da Bu, Na-mo A-mi-da Bu, Na- mo A-mi-da Bu.
Honen went out walking To gather fresh herbs.
The Earth and the Pure Land Were One in his eyes.
A rainbow of lotus flowers, A mountain, a waterfall,
A-mi-da’s temple a-mong the clouds,
And herbs that he knelt before- Namo Amida Bu-
And carefully plucked.
People brought flowers as offerings to his hut.
They saw the Buddha statue, He saw A-mida
In a beam of light a-bove.
Namo Amida Bu, Namo Amida Bu, Namo Amida Bu.