A Dharma Glimpse by Paramita
I noticed some of the usual heroic impulses arising in me on my first day of Chaplain duties in the prison that I work at. A certain energy in the enthusiasm that I felt rang some familiar bells that usually serve to alert me to the dangers of the trap doors of my ego.
I’ve got quite powerful rescuer parts that are very keen to charge in on the proverbial white horse and snatch the needy and vulnerable from the jaws of danger. But my experience tells me that it doesn’t tend to work like that. Usually, the subjects of my crusade immediately smell a rat and put up their barriers to religion, thereby rendering them immune to the intended message.
I have realised over the years that, what I can learn from this is to try my best not to make it about me. I’m lucky enough to get to hold a sacred space, and in that space some of them may or may not have an experience which inspires them. But the chances are that if anything good does happen, it won’t be due to the fruits of my intellectual capacity or my practice skills or my dazzling charisma, although those things can help and may contribute towards the arising of good conditions. It will more likely be because I was able to step back and allow something else to shine through me. Which is a skill in and of itself.
A large part of the basis for my relationship with Amida is my soul deep understanding that I am perfectly imperfect – prone to attacks of self-delusion and grandiosity and, often, just downright foolish.
When I know how vulnerable I am to the whims of my ego, and how inhibiting this can be to practice, work, relationships, etc, I am in a better position to surrender to grace; to allow Amida in rather than crowding him/her/it/them out with self-centred pretensions and personal agendas.
It seems to me that the essence of what we receive from the Buddha, our practice and each other is often transmitted without our conscious involvement. We don’t really have to do anything. Grace shines through us as a natural by-product of being in relationship with Amida.
And so, I am reminded of a saying, somewhat tongue in cheek, that we used to repeat to each other when preparing to teach in 12 step circles:
“Carry a message, and if all else fails, use words.”
Namo Amida Bu.
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