A Dharma Glimpse by Philip
At the start of the year I remember telling Satya how doing prostrations at home on some mornings, in addition to at practice, started to feel intuitively important and profound. They were probably the strangest thing when I first started practiced. And probably the most vulnerable. Conversely, I wondered if they are a reason people in non-Christian religions and cultures might have better physical flexibility and longevity due to daily practices like this at all ages!
I realised recently I have probably been fighting against surrendering to the reality of some things, and some people, for most of my adult life. Reality isn’t how I want it. I read an article on the Tricycle website recently by Rob Preece, a practicing Buddhist since 1973, about ‘The Solace of Surrender’. He talked about that in the West we grow up with the sense that we must learn to take control of our lives. That by the time we are adults, we must be able to make decisions and take responsibility for the direction of our lives. And that we must become self-sufficient individuals in a society that is ever more competitive and demanding.
Sometimes I feel I’ve tried everything to make reality, with its inevitable share of pain, loss and suffering, at least palatable and sustainable in the short term through a whole range of defences and actions. In the West we seem to use terms like ‘move on’, ‘accept’ and ‘get over’. They have shades of that self-sufficiency doctrine to be happier rather than healthier and wiser. That if something is painful, you should get away from it as quickly as possible and not look back. Or the opposite of taking on a burden of suffering as your responsibility, without talking about it as this could affect others’ happiness.
My initial experiences of surrendering have a different feel to it for me. It feels like a softer, more humble and more profound approach. And one which might take longer and involve a process of call and response. To try to surrender and then listen to the heart and head, or perhaps to something bigger, wiser and unconditionally loving, to see if it has been done. And the resolve to keep going back to getting down on your knees, literally and/or metaphorically, and going through the same process of surrendering for as long as necessary. Which might be until the end of my life.
It made me wonder which is harder for me as a White western male; surrendering to the things I don’t want or like, or to the faith there is something much bigger, wiser and unconditionally loving than my small, fragile, foolish and deluded self. Something like Amida Buddha. Something I can lean into and take refuge in just as I am. So perhaps it is about surrendering to who I am, and trusting if I lean into Amida Buddha, I will be unconditionally loved and accepted. I find the more I do prostrations, the lower I gently and purposely put my head. And also the higher and more open I put up my hands. Maybe the more humble I am, recognising and accepting without judgement and self-criticism my ‘bombu nature’, the more I am able to receive a little of the infinite wisdom and compassion all around me.
Namo Amida Bu