Holding it Lightly

    Categories: buddhism dharma glimpse

    A Glimpse by Dayamay

    As another New Year comes racing around, and the last one feels like one big blur, I notice that I’m very aware of how much older and fragile I am. Youthful resilience seems to be fading a bit, at least in the physical sense, and I’m much more sensitive to the world. Almost as if I’ve shed some skin, and the rawness and unpredictability of life feels a bit closer. My limitations are more apparent, the relevance of the incessant drive towards accomplishment and success, a bit more distant.

    This is not an uncommon occurence in the life of a religious practitioner. In fact, it can actually be taken as a positive sign of progress that some of the protective layers of our social conditioning have fallen away. The hard, uncompromising edges of who we thought we were, melted in the crucible of suffering, love, experience and practice.

    We are left with a central core of vulnerability, sensitivity and latent spiritual potential. Face to face with our authentic selves, naked in the presence of the light and grace that we call Amida.

    The benefit of being closer to the Buddha counterbalances the drawbacks of being more exposed and sensitive. And I find that the weight of inevitable suffering is easier to hold in the context of the unconditional Love that I feel from Sangha. I’m less reactive, more curious and generally more accepting of the way things are.

    One of the most important teachings that I received, in the earliest days of my journey, as I squared up with the prospect of life on its own terms – was to hold myself more lightly. This sounded a bit obscure at first, but once I got my head around it, it became clear that the general gist was to not take myself too seriously or my suffering too personally. There is a way of being with pain and difficulty that allows it to be what it is, and me to feel it and heal through it, whilst sparing the rest of the world from having to wallow in it as well – as if they haven’t got enough of their own.

    Holding it lightly may sound a bit too easy, like making light of an impossibly difficult task. It might seem like aiming at a small target on a distant horizon. Something to be aspired to in the future – for the new improved me, which, actually, might never come. But my experience has been that when I call on Amida and feel the inspiration that informs change, much of the heavy lifting is done for me, and the burden is lightened, making it possible to function on an even keel and freeing me up to continue the important work that comes with being truly present in an ever changing world.

    Namo Amida Bu.

    Less is More

    Categories: buddhism dharma glimpse

    A Dharma Glimpse by Alison

    Written on 8th Dec

    Today is the anniversary of Buddha Shakyamuni’s Enlightenment and I’m writing my First Dharma Glimpse.  During this morning’s Nembutsu, I began chanting then suddenly started to laugh.  I don’t really know why, or at least I didn’t.  I looked up at the Buddha and said a rather silly, “Sorry.”  The Buddha smiled back and reminded me that it’s fine to not always take the practice too seriously.  We can bring lightness and humour into what we do.  I said, “Thank you,” and started laughing again, as I realised that on the one hand this seemed really silly, but that this was an important insight and that, at the same time, my Glimpse had been seemingly gifted to me.  I was relieved to have had this inspiration and could use it as my Glimpse.  A little later, the thought that this wasn’t the kind of Glimpse that I’d wanted to write about entered my mind.  I had wanted to write a serious Glimpse, a clever Glimpse, incorporating a message from Manshi Kiyozawa’s book, which I am currently studying, ‘December Fan.’  This ‘gifted Glimpse or insight’ was too short and too simple, not to mention too silly.  It wasn’t enough to meet my high expectations of myself, satisfying my need for perfectionism, especially for my Very First Dharma Glimpse.  Yet the Buddha had taught me that it was enough.  I was reminded just recently, in the aftermath of an intensely stressful move from London to Malvern, that I’d made the decision to adopt a mantra, being ‘Less is Enough.’  I need to go more gently.  I had been partly successful:  my bread not rising for Bodhi Day was enough;  my not saying too much during the Listening Circle was enough;  my stopping after 30 minutes of cleaning the kitchen was enough and my not having been able to prepare responses on others’ book reflections last week was also enough.  So, maybe, writing a short and silly Glimpse, that nevertheless conveyed a good message, that had ‘dropped into my lap’ this morning, would also be enough.  I have typically spent my life with large agendas, requiring me to meet my high standards.  Perhaps my new life at the temple could be a gift of an opportunity to relax, let go, laugh, lighten the load and accept that Amida is smiling at me and has my back.  Amida doesn’t mind if I’m silly and if I do less.  Amida accepts me as I am.  I can simply trust in the process that all will be well, even with less.  Less is Enough.  

    I now remember Kiyozawa implying that responsibilities and commitments (meeting extrinsic demands within his Japanese culture) wasn’t as important as trusting in the ‘Power Beyond the self.’  So, perhaps in future, when I feel inclined to do more and more, I will sit with the Buddha and know that ‘I am enough,’ even when I start to laugh during Nembutsu.  When I can only do less, that the Buddha will still smile at me and I can relax, knowing that Less is Enough.

    “The only thing there can be is gratitude to the Buddha for guiding us….  The Buddha has the sole initiative for whatever we do or do not do.” (Manshi Kiyozawa, December Fan, Chapter 4, page 32).

    “There is no failure for one who trusts in the wondrous working of the Infinite.” (M. Kiyozawa, December Fan, Chapter 5, page 38).

    How The Light Gets In

    Categories: buddhism dharma glimpse

    A Dharma Glimpse by Dayamay

    On a black background, a heap of different coloured glow sticks - activated and glowing: blue, orange, purple and green
    public domain image from Wiki commons

    A few years ago I attended a special Christmas Eve Mass for children with my niece and nephew. I wasn’t expecting much, as, in my arrogance, I had sort of written off contemporary Christian preachers and teachers, as part of my lifelong resentment with the church. They couldn’t possibly have anything useful or interesting to say. As if to prove me wrong, this bubbly yet humble priest held up a luminous green glow stick – she had provided the whole congregation with identical ones – and snapped it in half in order to activate the chemicals inside that make it light up. After instructing everyone else to do the same, she explained how this related to Jesus’s story. She offered the slightly oblique perspective that “it doesn’t work unless it’s broken”. I was immediately struck by the analogy and the paradox; I had never heard it spoken about in this way before.

    It was Jesus’s brokenness(torture, humiliation and crucifixion), death and subsequent resurrection that were instrumental in proving him to be a genuine prophet, and eventually clearing up much of the scepticism that had surrounded his ministry. His persecution, death, resurrection and the mystery that made it such a powerful story, were the very things that gave Christianity its special influence in the world.

    It’s a story that we hear again and again in ancient cultures, religious traditions and folktales from around the world.
    Deep human suffering and subsequent defeat – surrender to the unchangeable forces of life, heartbreaking loss, transformation and profound spiritual power.

    I immediately knew what she meant and identified strongly with the concept. I considered how my own brokenness formed part of the basis through which understanding of my journey and spiritual destiny became possible. And how, throughout history, the world has witnessed the breaking and making of people, countries, economies and so on.

    One of the things I love most about the story of Shakyamuni Buddha’s enlightenment is that he had to be broken by his own Self Power efforts before he could fully understand the significance of his predicament as a human, the nature of awakening and his destined place in the spiritual scheme of things. When he hit that place of unquestionable self-defeat, somehow, he suddenly knew what it was that he had to do and set about realizing his immense potential. And then, the morning star shone…just for him.


    I’m certainly not going to compare myself with the likes of the Buddha – or Jesus, but I do know that a degree of brokenness is central and fundamental to my functioning as a spiritual practitioner and relatively useful member of society. And I don’t feel as if I can possibly write a piece like this without at least acknowledging Leonard Cohen’s genius assertion – again, born out of hardship and anguish – that “there’s a crack in everything, it’s how the light gets in”.

    Namo Amida Bu.X 

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    Self Care

    Categories: buddhism dharma glimpse

    A Dharma Glimpse by Khemashalini

    I’ve had yet another busy week mostly of my own making I might note and this Glimpse was triggered by my comments at practice on Saturday morning regarding brushing my hair. Why did I feel I needed to tell the world I’d done it?

    I’ve been trying to practice better self-care. As a nurse I really should know better but ive always found it easier to look after everyone else first before myself. Didn’t Buddha tell us that “You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”
    I’m still working long hours and working from home so it’s easy to fall out of bed and be in front of the laptop where I spend many hours every day. I no longer get dressed for the office and many days I’ve definitely not brushed my hair although I’ve always brushed my teeth. That’s a definite must do. I’m thankfully not working 7 days a week anymore, but the threat of a bad winter looms and I know I must have more resilience and create better patterns of behaviour if I’m going to get through this one. COVID pretty much broke me and I have felt like I was in a fog at times just going through the motions. It has taken some time to recover but I’m finally feeing like the old me although at times I’ve forgotten what the old me looked or felt like.

    Self-care isn’t a onetime thing though – It’s the constant repetition of many tiny habits, to regularly include in your life a little bit of love and attention for your own body, mind, and soul. which together soothe you and make sure you’re at your best — emotionally, physically, and mentally.

    I was thinking about what self care practices I’d like to do as we walked around the temple garden as part of morning practice. My wish list as such. The fact I’ve made it here is a good start. I’d definitely like to do more walking meditation as this is one of my favourite practices and always helps me feel better. Having a good walk every day feels important too- some of that walk being mindful although I do like to get up on the hills, to feel I’ve also had a work out- get out of puff by briskly walking up a hill or two. There is plenty of opportunity for this in Malvern. Prepare a healthy vegan meal- eat at a reasonable time – not 10 pm or even later, get to bed before 1 am, spend less hrs looking at a screen, read more, hang out with friends more, go to yoga, dance , sing, be still, BREATH….. I realise as I write this that im very good at writing lists but maybe not so good at putting them into action.

    I’m reminded of a quote by Brian Andreas
    “There are days I drop words of comfort on myself like falling leaves and remember that it is enough to be taken care of by myself.”

    So with a little bit of attention to my own self-care, the fog will lift. I know I will feel more connected to myself and the world around me and nothing will seem quite as hard as it did before.

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    Not a Dharma Glimpse

    Categories: buddhism dharma glimpse

    by Jenn

    I have been sitting here typing for ages. And I’ve deleted a lot of things. I guess I am feeling a bit self critical tonight, and also sad and angry. I’ve been feeling worried that will be obvious in my writing so I keep deleting it as a way of staying private. Or writing something that’s mainly made up as a way of providing what I have been asked for and also staying private.

    I haven’t had any experiences over the past few days where I feel like I have understood or seen some greater wisdom.

    So my glimpse today is about not getting a glimpse. I think tomorrow or some time soon I will be able to meet all this wildness I am experiencing in myself – a lot of anger and frustration and contempt (and underneath those, sadness and grief and fear and powerlessness) – with some compassion. I am ‘coping’ today, which means telling all my angry and sad parts they are being ridiculous, and hiding them underneath some other parts that are really good at being addicted to work. Coping is okay, and maybe tomorrow I will stop coping.

    I just had a picture in my mind of a house being battered by very strong winds. (As I write, I am in bed in the top floor of my tall house and it is windy – I can hear it shaking the trees outside and the sea will be wild out there in the dark). I have shut all the doors and windows and battened down the hatches and that makes the house this strong solid thing that shakes and creaks. Eventually perhaps it will fall down. That’s coping. And there’s another image coming to me – of opening all the doors and windows wide and letting the bad weather blow right through. That doesn’t feel possible today but today on my day of not getting a glimpse, I will just bear in mind that it might be possible some other time.

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    HRH Queen Elizabeth II

    Categories: articles buddhism

    Kaspa writes: In my role as Chairperson of the Network of Buddhist Organisations I was prompted to write to His Royal Highness King Charles III, following the death of his mother HRH Queen Elizabeth II. Here is the letter I have posted today. An earlier version of this appeared on the NBO’s website and social media pages.

    As Chairperson of the Network of Buddhist Organisations I am writing to pass on condolences from our trustees and the members of our executive committee. We are keeping in mind members of the Royal Family, who have lost a loved one, and people of the United Kingdom and across the world who are grieving alongside them

    Queen Elizabeth II was such a steady presence throughout our lives, a person of consistency in a changing and often chaotic world. I am sure people across the world will experience a whole range of feelings and reactions in the wake of this loss, and pray and hope that we can be kind to each other in the days ahead as we each process this news in our own way.

    We also send you our best wishes for your new responsibilities, and pray that you might carry them out with the welfare of the world and all living things in mind.

    Your Sincerely,

    Kaspa Thompson
    Chairperson 
    On Behalf of the Trustees
    Network of Buddhist Organisations

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    Quan Yin Dharma Glimpse

    Categories: buddhism dharma glimpse

    A Dharma Glimpse by Angela

    A wooden statue, of Quan Yin, a female Buddhist Saint, wearing flowing robes and holding an upturned vase on a small alter. The statue is about one and a half feet tall. There is a small red vase on the right, full of wildflowers, a candle stick with a lit cnadle on the left and two small offering bowls filled with water in front.
    The ancestor shrine, with Quan Yin, at Bright Earth

    I was dusting the Rupas in the shrine room this morning as part of my cleaning duties, cleaning the shrine room always feels like an honour and it is easier for me to do it mindfully and regard it as part of my practise than cleaning other things, although of course any cleaning or indeed any action, can be done this way.

    I came to Quan Yin, gently wiping her hands and face, and I put one hand on her shoulder to make sure I didn’t move her or knock her off-balance. As I did so, I felt that the experience was completely reciprocal; that she had a hand on my shoulder and was steadying me as the practise of cleaning her cleansed me and ‘blew a little of the dust from the mirror of my heart’ as they say in Bhakti Yoga.

    Namo Amida Butsu

    Making and Losing Friends

    Categories: buddhism dharma glimpse

    A Dharma Glimpse by Aidan

    Photo by Arthur Brognoli

    Last week, I unexpectedly reconnected with an old friend with whom I had once been very close but fell out with five long years ago.

    We had made apologies for what happened and spoken on and off since then, but my anxieties, my clinging to old memories and fears, held us back from really coming back into each other’s lives.

    Perhaps I was held back by my ego, by my desire, not for something, but to avoid something.

    To avoid confronting the past and risking embracing a renewed friendship that may end in the same way again.

    I had long thought that we had fallen out of each other’s lives for good.

    I’d accepted that.

    Despite the occasional text message, we fell out of touch yet again not too long ago and I felt that I had wasted my final chance at reconciliation.

    But a chance encounter on a train and a conversation with a mutual friend led us to spend real time together for the first time in half a decade.

    It was strange.

    Awkward to start with, but then special.

    Like reliving old times.

    It has left me thinking ever since about second chances and the all-too strange coincidences of life.

    At a time when I was thinking a lot about how I had messed up an opportunity to reconnect, accepting the consequences, everything just seemed to line up, well beyond either of our controls, to bring us together.

    I cannot explain how this happened or why, but I’ve accepted, after meditating on it, that I don’t need to.

    I must just be grateful that it happened at all.

    It has got me thinking, too, about that most important concept: impermanence.

    The impermanence of our original friendship.

    The impermanence of our distance.

    The impermanence of our lives and how much things have changed for the both of us in the years since.

    Perhaps the impermanence of our renewed relationship.

    I have spent so many years desiring to fix things between us, and yet desiring to avoid fresh hurt.

    Every step forward we have taken before has left me wanting to step back away again.

    But now that that desire is met, what now?

    I know that the answer must be to just enjoy it, to accept what we had, what we lost, and what we have again.

    Perhaps that is easier said than done.

    But I must now put my practice to work, to value what we’ve got now, and accept that things will come and go as life intended.

    I have considered that, maybe, the lesson I am meant to draw from this was that I was only able to reach my desire – to reconcile and reunite with my friend – only when I no longer desired it.

    It came to me naturally, when my desire was lost, replaced by grief, and then acceptance and when there was nothing left to fear and no more hope of seeking this.

    In acceptance of what I had, came what I had sought.

    And happiness came not through wanting this, but by it coming to me when the time was right for me to receive it, free of fear and prejudgements and preconceptions of what I wanted from it.

    After all, our reunion came about, not as a result of me seeking my desire, but through pure quirk of fate.

    I never believed that we would reconnect, but life made it happen.

    Perhaps we will be friends for many years once again, perhaps we will not.

    Life will decide and I must just play with whatever hand I am dealt and accept our friendship, however long or short it may be this time, for the unexpected gift that it is.

    Old photos

    Categories: buddhism dharma glimpse

    A Dharma Glimpse by Paul

    I recently paid my folks a visit and my mum proceeded to dig out the old photo albums. There I was, new born in a 70s living room, held by a proud father… an 80s kid clutching Star Wars toys… an early 90s 6th former…graduation cap n’gown… the millennium came  and parenthood not long after. And as mobile phones began to replace the Polaroid, the pictures dried up. Some of the photos were old – a black and white of the handsome Spanish grandad I never met, looking like a film star with cigarette. Even my grandma’s grandma from a bygone age.

    The faces looking out of each photo, full of life… I wonder if they knew how that moment in front of the camera would be short lived. That one day they would have to let go of everyone and everything they loved.

    I left with an emotional hangover. An underlying feeling of loss settled on me like a dark cloud. Later, a deep sense of gratitude for those memories lifted my spirits.
    Impermanence! That mark of existence, which the Buddha points us to, brings me the joy of seeing my daughters grow into young women and the heartfelt sadness of losing those I love. But then as one teacher said to me – when we come to realise the oneness of all things, what is there to lose?

    Namo Amitabha!