Categories: dharma glimpse

    Dharma glimpse by Beth H

    Having faith is a tricky concept for me.
    It’s a bit like the clouds. It comes and goes.
    The sun is there shining and grinning its reassuring glow.
    And as suddenly, it’s gone and I’m thrust back into greyness and find I’m floundering.
    Sunshine provides the reassurance, the comfort and glow that nurtures me and I imagine that is what faith provides.
    I can’t hold on to it. The cloud comes and murks the clarity. No sinjin here!
    But, I realise that practice has its place and role to play, so I pick up my Buddhist books, I meditate, I sing the nembutsu and I learn to breathe and be still. Restoring my Buddha nature. And I feel marvellous.
    I’ve started on this journey, that’s enough in itself for me.

    Doggy Glimpse

    Categories: dharma glimpse

    by Sharon Taylor Dechen

    Today my dog Poppy and I did our usual walk and I was thinking what I could share of my recent experiences to put into this Dharma Glimpse. As I was pondering this a set of two legs and two wheels came running past us sniffing flowers
    It was an elderly Labrador’ who still had use of his front legs but not his back. His owners spoke to me and said they had got him “his wheels“ so he could still get out and about . I have heard people say that it’s not fair to keep a disabled dog and at this point it would be better to have it put it down to end its life.
    This made me think, ”Were the owners being selfish refusing to accept the impermanence of even those we love?”
    I thought around this but in the end I decided that I didn’t think so. I think they were recognising that even when suffering ill health and age their friend was still a sentient being as we know from Buddhism and that he could still have some quality of life if only using wheels.
    He didn’t seem to be in pain and was happily sniffing and trotting along if with the odd bash into a tree!
    Life is impermanent and involves suffering. We can however value the simple joys that we have and appreciate our life in this minute right now . It may be that at some point the choices will be harder but for now let’s smell the flowers, using legs or wheels if we need them. NAB

    New glasses

    Categories: buddhism dharma glimpse

    Dharma glimpse by Dave Smith

    My eyesight has been slowly deteriorating for a while now but I never seem to get round to going to an optician. Someone suggested that I should just buy a cheap pair of reading glasses. I bought a pair yesterday, when I got into bed last night I thought I would try them out. I picked up my copy of Nagapryia’s “The promise of a sacred world” and started reading. The words were so much bigger and clearer which is what you would expect, but also I was able to read much faster. I didn’t have to struggle or concentrate in quite the way I usually do, the unexpected consequence was that I was able to understand the text more easily. I didn’t have to read and re-read everything to get the meaning of what Nagapriya was saying. My eyes had literally been opened! It felt almost like a mini awakening!
    Not only could I see more easily, but I could understand the text more easily. It made me want to start meditating more again, and reminded me of the value of having a clear and uncluttered mind.
    Who would have thought that a pair of £1 glasses could improve my spiritual well being?!
    Namo Amida Bu

    What Netflix Taught Me

    Categories: buddhism dharma glimpse

    A Dharma Glimpse by Frankie

    Who are our Dharma teachers? Where do Dharma Glimpses happen? In this series of glimpses that I’m writing, my teachers are Netflix, Amazon, Instagram, Facebook, online art courses and groups, my local supermarket, my husband, and more. None of these rich sources have anything to do with Buddhism per se, but they are the koans, the zazen, the Buddhas robes, and Indra’s net; the Dharma of Everyday.

    I was in a Netflix dilemma. Nothing on ‘my list’ was calling to me and I had spent most of the evening scrolling through, well everything. I was in the mood for something from the UK; but I had already seen most of what was available. One series on offer was called ‘Top Boy’ – as I read the synopsis and looked at the cast I dismissed it as not for me. Because it was for ….black people….

    As the thought arose, so did the heat suffusing my face and body.
    It happened that this was at the height of the Black Lives Matter protests and could it only have been that morning I had been reading an article in which it was stated that the most insidiously damaging perceptions were from liberal and left wing white people who considered themselves to not have a racist bone in their bodies? Oh hello Me.

    I was shocked. I allowed myself to think it and then say it. I’m racist and I was one hundred percent unaware of it. How many films and TV series had I rejected for the same reason? I could think of three without even thinking. How many books, fiction and or non fiction? It was extraordinarily horrible and made even more so by the fact that I am insatiably curious about the lives of others. I will set reading themes based on authors from countries I know nothing about. I’m fascinated by immersing myself in cultures, societies and histories not my own.
    And yet…..this country of colour was a place I had never been.
    Top Boy is a brilliant series and I’m eagerly awaiting the final season. I bow deeply to the series and to Netflix for nudging me into an awareness of my own ignorance, bias, privilege and unconscious sense of superiority. I’m not sure that as a white person born into a rich, colonial and racist country whose wealth was made largely through the oppression and exploitation of other nations, let alone its own poor, that I can ever be free of my own racism. And knowing that, I’m grateful, because it serves as a constant reminder that I can never sit back and assume that I understand the issues of others, and how I might, consciously or not, be contributing to them. I am reminded that I need to keep trying to re-educate myself. I need not to ignore issues as not relevant to me. That I’m not necessarily using compassionate action in the most helpful way. That I need to listen to other voices beyond the valley of echoes.

    Living a Small Life

    Categories: buddhism dharma glimpse

    A Dharma Glimpse by Alison

    Having a voice can seem like something very normal, but actually it isn’t for everyone.  On returning to England it struck me that we are expected to have a voice and to share ideas, opinions, thoughts and feelings.  In Asia this wasn’t particularly important, unless it was about an action plan, that would harmoniously operate together with a group of people.  Growing up in England I wasn’t allowed to have ideas or opinions – I had to remain silent and obedient.  In this one single respect, you could say, I’ve lived ‘a Small Life’.  Coming to the temple has provided space for thoughts and ideas, without judgement.  Not knowing what people think about your ideas or thoughts can be rather terrifying if you’re not used to it.  I realised just how much I’ve needed to continue my small life (in this way), or when boldly stepping out, how much I’ve needed approval, especially after so much disapproval.  Judgement isn’t the way here, it isn’t a Buddhist, or spiritual, practice.  It can be frightening to speak out without any reassurance or disapproval – did people approve or disapprove of what I said?  I’ve no idea, but I’m hoping that somehow my past conditioning will re-set at some point and it’ll no longer matter.  Do people approve?  Living with that unanswered question can be painful, but we are no longer children (and even children should be able to express themselves without approval!)  We shouldn’t need validation, yet many of us do.  I am not alone here in exclaiming how difficult it can be to not receive judgement, reassurance, disapproval or praise.  And yet – I really don’t want any of those things.  

    The plants and trees just grow.  And we know the expression, that the grass grows by itself.  Ultimately, to be as a tree, to unfurl our leaves and to spread our branches, we can rise up.  The trees, unafraid, greet the sun, which I like to think of as being Amida,  – we can greet Amida’s embrace, just by being, by growing, by not holding back.  We can’t allow self doubts or insecurities stunt our growth anymore – the trees don’t.  The trees simply grow – they could be said to ‘live a Big Life’.  There is only one direction to grow tall, straight and upright – we can only surrender, let go of fears and trust this natural process, no matter how painful it can be.  Growth usually involves pain, but it just happens naturally, if we allow it to.  We need to accept that not everyone will like us, or celebrate us and just be at peace with it all.  The trees just grow tall and we can take inspiration from them, by allowing ourselves to ‘live a Big Life.’  The trees don’t force or push themselves to grow and the trees don’t hold back their growth – they just grow.  This is, in a way, a test of faith, a letting go, an unfolding, a growing in faith – being unafraid to grow, to be, to exist and to say, ‘I am here.’  This unfolding can be an extremely difficult process and speaking for myself, I am painfully aware how deep I am in the mud in my karmic nature – in ‘my Small Life.’  It can take a very long time to reach up tall… to expand.  Despite being in the mud, we might occasionally catch glimpses of the sun’s rays, when we can feel the warmth seeping through.  

    We can simply trust in the process of our own growth.

    Namu Amida Butsu

    Sweeping and Breaking

    Categories: dharma glimpse

    A Dharma Glimpse by Angie

    I was walking past the alcoves in the garden where the Buddha & Tara rupas are and I suddenly had the desire to sweep them. I enjoyed the action of sweeping and the way the dry leaves moved from place to place, sometimes agreeing to follow the broom and sometimes leaping away and landing in my recently swept bit. I liked the softness of the dust as it gathered and reminded me of sweeping rooms and shrines in hotter, drier countries than the UK.

    Then I caught the thin wire of the fairy lights with the broom and it broke and split. I felt stupid, careless and clumsy and quickly started thinking that it could be relatively simple to repair, if I could just work out which wires connected to which!

    Another part of me smiled warmly at the situation. At how I couldn’t even perform the simple devotional act of sweeping without messing it up… how endearing, how bombu! It also seemed to reflect the interplay of self-power and other-power. I hadn’t generated the urge to sweep the alcoves, that was other-powered, from the Divine. And in my limited self-powered acting on that idea, I was able to partially sweep the area as I’d been drawn to, and I also destroyed the fairy lights in the process. Another perfect moment of the dharma expressing itself!

    Namo Amida Butsu

    More About Impermanence.

    Categories: buddhism dharma glimpse

    A Dharma Glimpse by Dayamay

    My car broke down yesterday while I was taking my elderly client shopping. Boot full of bags, middle of a busy street…you know, that sort of thing! I never get used to that feeling of helplessness, when the reality of my dependence on material things, and also, how fragile they are, really hits home.

    I remember the last time it happened was in the centre of Bristol, and as the car came to a grinding halt, in an equally inappropriate place, I became aware of some graffiti, scrawled on the wall, somewhat carelessly, but visible and coherent enough to stop me in my self-obsessed state of panic and capture my attention long enough to completely change my attitude towards the situation.

    The graffiti read:

    “Nothing lasts for ever and all things decay.”

    The irony, coincidence and synchronicity of me breaking down at exactly the spot where somebody had felt inspired to discourse the general public on impermanence, did not escape my attention.

    I hear the word impermanence spoken and the concept invoked quite a lot in my day to day Buddhist centred business. Almost to the extent where it can sort of lose some of its meaning and power. But in this instance, the impact was live, raw and in my face! Like the Universe had identified a lack of comprehension or a detachment on my part from the depth of the principle, and decided to thrust it onto me – in no uncertain terms.
    When physical fact and conceptual understanding coincide, a deeper experience with reality can prevail.

    In Pureland Buddhist terms, I would count this as an ‘Other Power’ intervention. Because, not only did it jolt me out of my self-pity, it helped to align me with a core spiritual teaching that points toward something greater than the relatively trivial everday dramas that I find myself caught up in. It showed me the meaning that is intrinsic to the experience.

    Fortunately, this time I was a bit closer to home and managed to get my client back mercifully quickly. With the help of some kind people (more other power), who went out of their way for us, and in doing so, also showed me how uncomfortable I still am at receiving; I do still like to indulge in the illusion of self-sufficiency, despite many years of training and general life experience, which testify to the contrary.

    So it is in this spirit that I am choosing to approach these latest challenges. It is the action of ‘The Other’ on my life, in my mind and my heart, that brings me the ongoing insight and inspiration, which keeps my faith fresh and my willingness alive.

    Namo Amida Bu.

    All the things I get to do

    Categories: buddhism dharma glimpse

    Dharma Glimpse by Dave Smith

    I’ve recently been in contact with an old school friend who I’ve not seen for about 35 years. She was telling me about how she had to go to the dentist. Her words were “I get to go to the dentist today”, she then went on to explain how she was adjusting her language to include the words “I get to” rather than “I have to”. We joked about it at first but I have since tried to adopt this into my own vocabulary.
    Changing your words can go hand in hand with changing your attitude and the way you think about things. Going to the dentist can seem like a tiresome thing that we “HAVE” to do, its uncomfortable and can be scary and it takes us away from the other things we could be doing instead. The reality is, we don’t have to go to the dentist, we can choose not to, it’s actually a privilege to be able to go to a dentist or a doctor or even to go to the shops.
    Living here in Malvern I get the opportunity to do all these things that many other people don’t get to do and yet sometimes they seem like chores and inconveniences’ and I can become resentful when I should be feeling grateful.
    “I’ve got to go to the dentist next week, I’ve got to go shopping tonight because I’ve got to cook for everyone on Friday and I’ve got to write a Dharma glimpse before tomorrow”
    If I just stop and think and check myself, this becomes…
    “I get to go to the dentist next week to have my teeth checked out by a professional and its on the NHS so it’s not going to cost very much. Then I get to go to a shop of my choice to buy the ingredients for the meal I’m going to cook for all my friends at the temple on Friday, the money will be reimbursed and I have a huge kitchen with an oven and all the cooking utensils I could dream of, then an amazingly spacious dining room in which to dish up with an outstanding view and good company. Finally I have been given the opportunity to write this Dharma glimpse. A chance for me to share my thoughts with like minded people who are willing to listen.”
    None of this is really new to me but sometimes it’s good to be reminded of things that I have forgotten and to be grateful, so thank you to my old school friend for this little glimpse and a reminder to be mindful and thankful for all the things I get to do
    Namo Amida Bu

    The spider in its web

    Categories: Uncategorised

    Dharma Glimpse by Sam

    ‘In the corner of my room, I see a spider in its web. It’s been there a few days now – I don’t mind its company. But I wonder how the spider feels. I haven’t seen any flies lately, so I don’t imagine it has caught any.

    Is the spider hungry and frustrated? Or is it happy, just chilling in its web, in its element, doing what it was made to do?

    I suppose spiders may not have evolved to experience those feelings of frustration in the same way that humans do, because what purpose would it serve? The spider cannot do much else but sit in its web and wait. As human beings, we get frustrated and impatient because there are usually other things we can try, and the painful feelings are our mind’s way of telling us that it is time to try something else.

    But we humans are foolish beings, and our response to those feelings are not always helpful. ‘The computer isn’t working, I’ll try hitting it.’ Sometimes there isn’t anything to do but wait. Sometimes there is, but we need to take a step back and calm ourselves down before we can think clearly enough to find it.

    Recently, I have been involved with the Parts Work book group online. I wonder if I can, from the Self, Buddha nature, observe my frustrated part, and show it the same kindness I might show a small child or a close friend. Let the part be heard, and help it to see clearly.

    Namo Amida Bu

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    Finding the right community

    Categories: dharma glimpse

    Dharma Glimpse by Sam

    I grew up as a Christian, and I was lucky enough to be part of a nourishing community of Christians. Unfortunately, this community was built around a set around a particular set of beliefs, and in the end I found that I could not believe in it, and therefore I could not continue to be a part of the Church.

    I lost an important part of my identity, and I lost community. I went in search of something to fill the void.

    I ended up finding a replacement in the world of political ideology, giving me a new identity and a new community.

    I started my time at university in this state. I talked to some clever people and it became apparent that my new beliefs didn’t stand up to scrutiny either. I didn’t want to admit this, I really didn’t. I denied it for a while, until I couldn’t.

    Now I was in crisis, having again lost an important part of my identity and community.

    I came to the conclusion that political ideology was not a good foundation, because it is not solid. No one really knows the answers, and so eventually you have to change your mind. I came to the conclusion that a more solid foundation for one’s life would be spiritual principles, more like what I grew up with.

    For me there are two essential principles. One is something like love or compassion or kindness. That I could find at Church, but the second principle is something like reason or open-mindedness or non-attachment to ideas. For me, I could not find this in Church, because I could not belong to such a community without believing in something that went against my reason.

    In the end, I did find a good example of such community living for a period of time at Bright Earth Buddhist Temple. But such community is not only here. It is, I think, fundamentally, to be found wherever Buddha nature meets Buddha nature, and Buddha nature is in all of us.

    Namo Amida Bu

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