It turns out that living in a Buddhist Temple can be a very interesting thing.
One of the benefits of staying in one place for a long time, is that you get to observe the fluctuations of the world from a fixed standpoint, which can prove quite advantageous at times.
Here at the Temple we have quite a high resident turnover. The highest I’ve seen anywhere, I think.
People often seem to use it as a stopgap, sometimes between jobs or relationships and then they move on and the energy shifts a bit as we wait to see who the next housemate will be and then adjust accordingly.
It often doesn’t feel like a big deal at first, but with each new character comes a distinct vibe that keeps everybody on their toes in subtle ways. There tends to be a sort of honeymoon period, where everybody embraces each other and the new person gets smothered in welcoming love. This is usually closely followed by a more real experience, where personalities can clash and we sometimes struggle a bit to find our way around each other’s patterns and proclivities.
It always strikes me as amazing how quickly we adapt to one another so harmoniously here. There is an indescribable spaciousness that I’ve never experienced anywhere before, which seems to foster a collective attitude of love, tolerance and understanding.
One of the things that we’ve always set out to do here is to create conditions which are conducive to the qualities of Sukhavati, or, the Pure Land, in English terms. Love, tolerance, understanding and inclusiveness, to name a few.
We talk about being “held” in our personal lives, as our faith provides a container for our foolishness and a refuge for our hearts, and this seems to be reflected in the community dynamics, as even the people who are not invested in the practice enjoy the benefits of conscientious living and spiritual friendships.
In meditation the other morning, as I watched my busy mind secreting all sorts of thought patterns, I became aware of an interesting parallel between it and the ever changing dynamics in the Temple. The thoughts rising and drifting away and the space between then seemed to reflect quite closely the shifting energies in the house. People coming and going, events occurring and then drifting into the back of our awareness as we move towards the next joy or drama that awaits us.
We are taught that nothing ever stays the same, that everything arises depending on causes and conditions, which are themselves subject to never ending change. So, according to this principle, it is actually impossible to experience true consistency in the physical world. Which is why we look to the spiritual realm for the meaningful and reliable sustenance that keeps our feet on the ground as the universe continues to move the goalposts around us!