Getting-it-wrong and the Buddha’s smile

buddha-2Everything in your life is there as a vehicle for your transformation. Use it! ~ Ram Dass

We are continually presented with opportunities to grow, to learn something about ourselves, to be courageous, to be kind. I see these opportunities offered to others too. What I notice is that, it’s generally not very easy to take them. To say, yes, I will give my last piece of chocolate away. Yes, I will acknowledge that what I said was hurtful. Yes, I will see this deep flaw in myself plainly, as if through crystal clear water.

I know the theory. If I can let go – of my clinging, of my frightened habits, of my need to control and manipulate – then my heart will open up and grace will stream in. I block it at every turn.

The Buddha knows how we are. I can see him now, the golden one in our living room, sitting behind the red incense bowl and beside some last purple verbena from the garden. He is smiling gently, unperturbed by our comings and goings. Sometimes when I look at him, and the other Buddhas scattered around this temple, I imagine some gentle amusement in his smile. Oh, there she goes again…

Step ten of the twelve steps tells us that we should ‘continue to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admit it’. I think that this is good advice. When I am left with a feeling of regret, for example after a conversation with a friend in which I tried to fix them rather than listen to them, I try to say sorry. Continually measuring ourselves against the precepts shows us where we have turned away from the Buddha, and gives us the impetus to investigate what might have happened and why. It gives us an opportunity to make amends.

Sometimes I see my life as one never-ending stream of getting-it-wrong. This is what Ram Dass is speaking about. Everything that we bump up against shows us something new about our crowing ego. This is one of the joys of being a Pureland Buddhist. It reflects our deep experience, if we allow ourselves to see it, that we truly are foolish beings of wayward passion. It encourages us to use it if we can.

But when we can’t, when we slump into eating the last bit of chocolate ourselves, or letting off steam by slandering a mutual friend, or doing the terrible murky things that we sometimes all do, the Buddha just carries on smiling. He sees us – with a depth and an accuracy that we can only imagine – and he smiles his indulgent smile. Namo Amida Bu.

Meet Poppet, the newly three-legged temple bunny

Meet Poppet, our newly three-legged bunny.
Three legged Poppet
Kaspa and I enjoyed our two week break and at the end of our first day back, a busy volunteer day, I went to feed the much-loved temple bunnies with 3 year old Felix.

It took me a while to notice that Poppet wasn’t coming out of the hutch. When I looked closer I saw the blood, and that her back leg was at a horrible angle underneath her. I won’t go into details but when I picked her up it was a traumatic sight. We think she caught her leg in a slatted chair – I still can’t understand how she broke it so badly.

Felix was amazing and ran to get a grown-up as fast as he could. We rushed off to the emergency out-of-hours vet in Worcester, trying to balance speed with not bumping her around too much. I couldn’t imagine how much pain she was in. The vet said she’d keep her comfortable overnight and then we could take her to our own vet in the morning.

Rabbits are more difficult to treat medically, both because of their size and digestive systems, and because vets don’t get as much experience as they do with cats and dogs. We did some hasty Googling that evening and I spent the night worrying. Would she survive the shock? The anaesthetic? Would they save her leg? What would happen if not?

The next day we said goodbye to her at 10am and waited. It was 3.30pm when the vet called. She’d made it through the op, was eating well, and by 5pm we were asked to come and pick her up.

She’s currently in a temporary pen in the living room with her friend Peter for company (I just went in to check on them – Peter is licking Poppet’s head, and Fatty our old cat is hanging out nearby). She’s already managing to hop around remarkably well, and the prognosis is good.

Whilst waiting for the news I couldn’t concentrate on anything and so I had lots of time to look at the beautiful blue sky and contemplate. Life is so short and unpredictable. Most (all?) of the discomfort I experienced from the time we found Poppet injured was because I wanted thing to be different than they were, and I wanted to be in control. I wasn’t in control of how far away the vets were, or whether or not she was going to stop breathing on the journey. I wasn’t in control of whether she came round after her operation. Of course, I manipulated the situation as much as I could – barking orders at poor Kaspa, interrogating the vet about her surgical skills, beating myself up for leaving the chair in the rabbit’s enclosure – but none of these things made any substantial difference to the outcome.

By the grace of the Buddhas, Poppet has been allowed some more time alive – to flop over and roll in the sunshine, to race up and down the grass, and to snuggle under Peter’s belly.

It’s often in the midst of crisis that we realise how much we take refuge in the things we can’t control. Remembering this, I might do better during the next crisis, but I probably won’t. Instead I can relax, knowing that the Buddhas accept me just as I am, and give thanks. Thanks to the overnight emergency nurse who found & fed Poppet dandelion leaves. Thanks to our vet for her kindness. Thanks to the insurance company for paying most of the £750 it cost. Thanks to Felix for staying calm. Thanks to the supportive friends, the car, the Chinese takeaway we had at the end of a long day, the people who grew the carrot Poppet just munched…

And thank you to you, for reading and for caring. Namo Amida Bu.


Don’t forget our weekly schedule and one-off events.

Non-Amida events at the temple: Kaspa’s latest mindfulness meditation classes start on Tuesday 6th Sept. Click here for more information: Mindfully Whole. We are also still holding a CoDA 12 Step group every Tuesday at 6pm for anyone who’s interested in improving their relationships – for more information speak to Satya or look at

Finding your rhythm

15162587781_0b51de4d82_bNamo Amida Bu. I’d like say something about our rhythm here in the temple, and how rhythms can help you too. First an update on what we’ve been getting up to.

All’s well here in the temple. Work is underway on Seishi House, the coach-house conversion project which will be the home for Jnanamati’s art therapy practice etc. – read more here. We’re looking forward to a three day retreat, ‘Opening Your Heart’, on Oct 22nd and as usual see our website for our weekly schedule and one-off events. If you’re ready to learn more about Pureland Buddhism we have a lovely introduction course via email – here.

Finding a rhythm. Last week I became emotional when a weekly meeting to talk about temple business was unexpectedly cancelled. I was surprised at how upset I felt.

When I reflected on what had happened, I realised that I had been feeling stressed about various things but had been ‘holding out’ for a chance to talk it through and hand some of it over. I’d coped okay knowing that the meeting was coming up, but when it was postponed I suddenly realised that I really needed it!

In November we’ll have been here for two whole years. Over that time we’ve added more regular events into our diaries. When we moved in we decided to eat together every Friday night, plus three services and a Listening Circle. Since then we’ve added mine and Kaspa’s meeting, morning meditation three times a week, a weekly doing-the-accounts, a weekly ‘taking care of the temple hour’, a weekly lunch with Jnanamati, a Friday morning Order meeting, a fortnightly Dharma study group…

You might imagine that all these meetings make my week feel crowded and over-scheduled. They actually have the opposite effect. I don’t have to worry about the accounts on a Tuesday because I know they happen on a Friday. I am prompted to check in with Emma on a Friday, even if we don’t manage to catch up during the week. They give the week a spacious rhythm, and I adjust myself to them without even knowing, as demonstrated by my sudden upset. They help regular communication happen and they ensure that we offer different things to our extended sangha.

What rhythms do you have in your own life? Is there something you avoid that would benefit from going in your diary at the same time every week? Would you like to set up a fortnightly lunch with a friend or a time to meditate every morning or evening? How do you feel around schedules – claustrophobic or more free?

Do write a comment and let me know how you’re finding the rhythms in your own life. Namo Amida Bu, deep bow.

Bow to everything

Image by Tatters via Flickr

Image by Tatters via Flickr

Another beautiful, wet, day in Malvern.
Holy rain, holy mud, holy birdsong, holy floods, as Alan Ginsburg might say.
Here we are in the midst of samsara, and the Buddha’s light is shining on everything.
Everything is lit up with universal love. Everything is reflecting sacred light. This is why we should bow to everything.
As foolish beings we need shrine rooms, and Buddha statues, and thangkas to remind us that the light is here, and to bow to it.
“Namo Amida Bu” means I bow to the Buddha of infinite light. If could see with enlightened eyes, we would see everything glowing.
I recently heard a Japanese expression, ‘plank person’ (I can’t remember the Japanese word, right now). A plank person is someone carrying a plank of wood over one shoulder. There is always a blind spot. We are like this – there is always a blind spot – always somewhere we forget the light is shining.
If we can remember to bow to everything, we should. When we forget, when we fall into rushing or stupor, we should do our best to remember the Buddha’s light and start bowing again.
Sometimes we will remember, and sometimes we will forget. Either way – everything is illuminated.
Namo Amida Bu

The Great Way Avoids Picking and Choosing

In this short talk from our Sunday Service, Kaspa explains what The Great Way avoids picking and choosing means.

Download the mp3 or stream on YouTube

“I am talking about the first few lines of the Zen poem, Faith in Mind. They go something like this:

至道無難 The best way is not difficult

唯嫌揀擇 it only excludes picking and choosing

但莫憎愛 Once you stop loving and hating

洞然明白 it will enlighten itself.

I hope to make a translation myself soon, that translation is from