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    Dharma Glimpse by Paul Riley

    I get the bus to work each morning and pass through some of the most impoverished parts of Liverpool. The buildings are falling down. People look beat. Crime, addiction and deprivation are everywhere. The place I’m heading to – Liverpool prison – is a condensed microcosm of this pain and suffering, where up to 1400 men are incarcerated. Over the years, I’ve seen thousands of men pass through the jail… young and old, from near and far, drug dealers to doctors, from drop-outs to professors of neuroscience… all with their own version of anger and stories of personal injustice. Violence and abuse are rife in the prison, often fuelled by gang drug wars. Self harm is common and suicide becomes the only answer for some.

    I sit on the bus and contemplate all this. This is how it is. This is what life throws up. It’s not easy for anybody in these places but these places exist and people live and work in them. 

    I remember speaking to a prison officer who said he conducted a morning ritual of drawing a protective circle around himself before coming into the prison, shielding against the residual negative energy of the building. An understandable precaution for a person who can be plunged into the depths of extreme situations at the drop of a hat. It got me thinking about my own practice. Each morning I open myself up to life as it is. I invite a loving power to work through me, with faith that this power will soothe the manifestations of greed, anger and ignorance as they appear.  So, unlike the officer who dons more armour to protect himself, I sit and say Nembutsu, taking my armour off. I have faith in this practice, that I can live more freely in gratitude for what is, not habitually hiding from the gritty reality of life, not constricted by fear, held by the hand of the Buddha.

    Namo Amida Bu

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