A Dharma Glimpse by Izzy Ellis
I woke up one spring morning and as I left the temple to get to an early shift, I found my car window had been smashed in the night. The stone that was usually used to weigh down the lid of the bin, to stop the lid blowing open in the wind, lay on the floor next to my car. I remember wanting to believe that a strong gust of wind had blown the stone off the bin into my car but given the distance between the car and the bin, unless there’d been a transient departure from the laws of physics at some point in the night, it was unlikely. More likely, someone had thrown the stone at the window. I was flooded with anger. A part of me was searching for someone to blame. I remember trying to blame the sangha member who’s idea it had been to weigh the lid down with a stone in the first place! “They were tempting fate! Of course people can’t be trusted to walk past a stone so close to a car window. The urge to throw the stone is just too strong!” This part was desperately clutching at straws.
I remember picturing scenes in my mind. A group of young men walking back home from the pub, drunk and rowdy. Someone throwing the stone for a laugh or to assert themselves. In it’s attempt to find some explanation, my mind created elaborate tales.
I remember thinking, “Who would do this?” and wondering whether it could have been someone I knew. I felt my faith, trust and love in people waver. Some of that was restored later that day when the daughter of the person I was caring for came back home with a package of pastries and insisted I take some. I don’t usually eat dairy but I was eager to accept this gift from a stranger, to lap up any love going, I gratefully accepted.
Pieces of the puzzle came together later that day when a templemate told me in the kitchen that they’d heard commotion in the night. Someone screaming, the sound of smashing glass. They said it sounded as though the person was upset and in distress. There was glass on the ground opposite the temple too, so it looked as though the person had smashed other windows.
On hearing this, I sensed a shift in my understanding.
The selfish, vindictive, hateful person I’d fabricated in my mind suddenly evaporated. In it’s place, a person in pain, wounded, unable to contain their suffering. Someone overcome by this human impulse to destroy. Someone I could instantly empathise with. In that moment, my heart reached out to them and I wished them well.
Every now and again, when I spot the dent in the side of the car or feel it’s rough surface, I think of them and I feel this warm glow of love in my belly. It extends out to them and all those who suffer in that moment.
Namo Amida Bu.
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