This year has seen important developments. The Amida Sangha, through the wonderful initiative of Satya and Kaspa, and the Amida Trust trustees has acquired a fine house in Malvern, a beautiful town in the west of England. The house will be a temple called Amida Mandala and will house a small community as well as being a centre for visits and retreats. Our new and youngest Acharya, Susthama has been in action there already leading the Bodhi retreat under the eye of Acharya Modgala who has also continued to be active in a great variety of functions in London. Our fourth Acharya, Sujatin, meanwhile, has moved to Perth in Scotland and we hope to see some flourishing of the Dharma there in due course too. We also have new shu and order members and a new full minister, Shantikara. In fact in every category of membership of our sangha there are new arrivals. How wonderful! It is certainly all a great affirmation of how faith breeds community.
Personally, I have visited the Amida Sangha in Hawaii and conducted a number of advancement ceremonies, travelled to South America for the first time, making three trips this year including Peru, Argentina and Chile, and I have also taught in England, Scotland, Netherlands, Belgium, France, Spain, Italy, and Korea. I have spoken with prisoners, parliamentarians, therapists, spiritual people, school children, social workers. dancers, retreatants, and people concerned with death and dying, with drug rehabilitation, and many other forms of important work in society. I have also been able to teach in settings that were Pureland, Zen, Theravada, Chogye, and Tibetan Buddhist. From these diverse experiences I have learnt a lot. If one lives to the full – and I do my best in this respect – one is always learning. I have also gradually been learning building skills by doing small projects at my hermitage in France. I have also found some time for writing and my latest (and tenth) book “Buddhism is a religion: You can believe it” came out a week ago.
In the year to come I am invited to speak at conferences in London and in California which should yield more friends. We are holding a conference of ITZI, the International Zen Therapy Institute, in Spain in September – do come. I have also been invited to edit a special edition of the International Journal of Psychotherapy on the topic of “Mindfulness in Psychotherapy” – I’ll be sending out guidelines soon for anybody who might like to contribute. I will be continuing my travels, though perhaps not at quite such a pace as in the year gone by. We are each on a journey and the important thing about such travel, whether it is literal or just in spirit, is what one learns of faith and love along the way.
Recently i have been including the seven factors of enlightenment more frequently in my Dharma presentations and this has led me to see the whole issue of mindfulness in new ways, such that it might be better to express the original concept as heartfulness. It is the first of the seven factors and in a Buddhist context is a great deal more than simply a mode of attention and is concerned with much more than just the present moment. Really it is love and it is the foundation for the other factors of investigation of Dharma (which is really the action of compassion), zest, joy, equanimity, depth, and samadhi. These factors can be seen as things to do on the path, but really they are the colours in the rainbow light of Buddha that always shines upon us. Along this path we see such rainbows and then we feel filled with such delight that, for a moment or more, we forget ourselves.
Wake up! Wake up! the old man cries.
Wake up and doff your old disguise;
the world is new before your eyes.
Wake up! Wake up, before one dies!
Thus spoke the sage so long ago,
but we were dull and oh, so slow;
We did not think, we did not know;
and so we passed our time below.
Yet one fine day, by turn of fate,
we chanced back on an old locked gate
where yet the lock, in rusted state,
gave way unto the ultimate.
Beyond the gate rainbow light
made all the land so pure and bright
we paused, forgetting why we fight,
we saw a realm of sheer delight.
We were so startled, most just fled,
preferred to be the living dead
than pass beyond a gate so dread
that unto light and freedom led.
Wake up! Wake up! He’s still around.
His love’s not lost, it’s easily found;
His words though old are still quite sound.
Wake up! Jump free! It’s just one bound.
Thinking ourselves most important in the universe, we might suddenly take note that in relation to the cosmos we are less than a dew drop to the ocean. Thus we swing from inflation to deflation wondering which is correct. Is it hugely important what I do or is it a matter without the least significance in the greater scheme of things? Are the year gone by and that to come great steps, or are they nothing much? Thus, obsessed with the insoluble question of weighing our own importance, we make confusion reign. A dew drop cannot do very much by its own power and powerless is how we often feel. Between bouts of elation we plumb the chasm of despondency.
However, as Dogen says, every dewdrop, no matter how small, reflects the full light of the moon. The whole moon is seen therein. The dewdrop is in no way ruptured or harmed by the fact that the whole moon enters into it and appears in its depths. Indeed, the reflection appears as deep as the moon is high, although the dewdrop measures less than half a centimetre.
Thus it is with ourselves. Individually we are small, but in us is reflected a wondrous light and when somebody sees that light in us, it is not our tiny dimensions that they see, but rather the splendid lustre of that distant orb now made close by its being packaged in so minute a drop as we. We have our uses.
It is not our part to rival or displace the great orb above, but simply to appreciate its light bathing us and passing through, becoming apparent to others; and, in like manner, ourselves to see that same light in them. Indeed, if we look closely the reflection in the dewdrop is not limited to the moon, glorious as it is. In one drop is reflected the whole cosmic extent to which no limit is knowable. Infinity reigns in each of us without making the least demand upon us.
Thus looking deeply into another, one sees the meaning of all being, one is touched by what is most personal because it is universal. One’s concern with self-assessment is forgotten, at least for a moment, and in that moment the whole freedom of awakening is known. The moment passes, but the trace remains and in the remembering we find peace.
So, now the new year is upon us. I wish you all blessings. The greatest blessing may be that we go forward together heartfully, protected by the supreme refuge: Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.
Namo Amida Bu!