Dharma Glimpse by Mat Osmond
I’ve left it late to write this week’s dharma glimpse partly because I’m still wondering what to say about it. I’ve been wondering all week what to say about it in fact. Years ago now I watched a snail, and realised something as I watched them that’s never really gone away. I don’t recall much about the actual snail – what I remember is how it felt to watch them. I think I may have lifted my finger close to their face, because I remember how the snail recoiled, pulling in both horns. A full-body wince, as they contracted away from the unknown threat. I remember recognising that: my whole body recognising the snail’s wince, not as similar to my own, but as the same. And ten years or so later, here I am still working out why meeting this snail feels as good a place as any to name what awakening means to me. The question of ‘whether a snail has buddha nature’ is of no interest to me at all. It’s always felt like an empty abstraction. Likewise, the idea that this beingness the snail and I share in is something from which either of us need to wake. Being awake *to* the snail feels like a better place to start. This week, as I wondered about bringing the snail here so you could meet them, I read the essay ‘What is Amida? by Nobuo Haneda . I loved many things in this piece, but especially that what calls to us here in our snail bodymind translates into English as Bowing Amida Buddha. That what Amida Buddha means, is bowing. That what Amida Buddha does is bow, recognising all things as likewise Buddha. Just saying this makes me want to laugh. It feels grounded and real, not just an airy mental abstraction. I don’t want to dress this up as a more than it is – less a glimpse than a hunch. But connecting the snail with Bowing Amida Buddha has left me wondering about bowing, too. What is bowing, anyway? We make a bending-over gesture with our bodies to help ourselves remember, but that’s not really what bowing means, is it? Maybe bowing to a snail might mean sitting and watching them for a while. Or remembering them, ten years later, and feeling grateful to have met them. But lest this all get too clever, here’s a dumb promise for the coming week: to find a snail and spend some time with them. To watch how they move – now reaching out with their soft horns, now pulling them back in – and then offer them a deep and literal bow.
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