I did not speak out

    Categories: dharma glimpse

    A Dharma Glimpse by Karmadeva

    Often we take things for granted. We continue with our own lives as though everything is fine, even when everything is falling apart for others. That’s not to say we shouldn’t be happy with our lives if things are comfortable and we are happy. I remember a retreat I completed in the March that lockdown started. My sudden realisation that if humans were no longer here it wouldn’t have that much impact on the earth. And none in the universe frightened me, felt uncomfortable.  

    Last night I attended an arts exhibition at the Midland Arts Centre in Birmingham. A zen Buddhist that I know asked me along. The event was primarily to remember the attack by police on the commuters at a train station on 31 August 2019. This was part of a clamp down on the demonstrations in Hong Kong at that time. There were also images from artists from China, Thailand and Myanmar. 

    The young person that acted as interpreter to the four westerners attending wept as he translated speeches for us. Many people present had been directly involved in protests in Hong Kong and they all sat on the floor while the various protest songs were performed. Looking around the room as flowers were given to us to place on a shrine at the front of the room, I realised that this was real.  I mean, I’ve watched the same people on the news. Sometimes with the police beating them, water cannons being used on them and not seeing the pain they feel. At that moment last night, I again realised that sometimes we don’t think, or maybe don’t feel strong enough about issues that we really should be taking note of. The Ukrainian crisis, oppression around the world and the destruction of this planet. All just ignored. Yet when we’re told to stay at home for two years as we may catch a virus we comply without question. I’m not going to suggest why or say I’m any different because I’m probably as bad as anyone else if not worse. What I would say is maybe we should look at the words of Martin Niemöller. 

    First they came for the Communists
    And I did not speak out
    Because I was not a Communist

    Then they came for the Socialists
    And I did not speak out
    Because I was not a Socialist

    Then they came for the trade unionists
    And I did not speak out
    Because I was not a trade unionist

    Then they came for the Jews
    And I did not speak out
    Because I was not a Jew

    Then they came for me
    And there was no one left
    To speak out for me

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    Learning to suffer

    Categories: dharma glimpse

    A Dharma Glimpse by Dayamay

    I noticed recently that the majority of the elderly people that I work with seem to have a very gracious attitude towards their, often very challenging predicaments. Many of them have extremely debilitating health conditions and are dependent on people like myself for some of their most basic needs. Despite this fact and the fact that I obviously, in many ways, represent the absence of their independence and a potential threat to their dignity, most of them go out of their way to make my job as easy as possible and treat me with great love and respect. I would go as far as to say that some of them positively radiate grace.
    Given my Buddhist leanings, and the learning and training that I have so fortunately received over the years, I am inclined to wonder about the meaning of this phenomena.
    My musings often lead me to ideas about how we learn to deal with suffering – how it seems to soften some of us up and make us more receptive to spiritual wisdom. I know that the acceptance that I eventually found with regards the inevitability of my own suffering, seemed to nudge me from a state of constant agitation, into a much more tolerant and philosophical outlook. But this all took time.
    When I think about some of my elderly clients I can see that most of them have had more than twice as much time as me to master their afflictions and have maybe become more adept at holding them, or even subverting them.
    Maybe they have inadvertently resolved the dilemma inherent to the Buddha’s teachings on the Four Noble truths, which, to me, implies a kind of enlightenment.
    I often think about how, in our terminally busy culture, we are inclined to dismiss the elderly as if they have had their day and no longer have anything valuable to offer society. In reality they might be showing us and teaching us the most important lessons that we could ever learn.
    Western culture seems to lack the Elder function that is so central to the health and prosperity evident in some of the indigenous populations of the world. I wonder if our obsession with wealth and success has superseded and thereby made obsolete, essential elements of the natural process by which real wisdom is transmitted from generation to generation.
    If nothing else, my journey has taught me to pay attention to what the world is showing me and to try to think outside the box. The affliction of impermanence has a deeper meaning and, if we engage with it in a constructive way, can reveal great and powerful wisdom.

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    Rising Sun

    Categories: dharma glimpse

    A Dharma Glimpse by Beth H

    the sun is behind a few small clouds, the sky is yellow orange, and streaks of shadow cross the sky from the clouds. The clouds have golden edges
    Image by lmaresz from Pixabay

    Early this morning I found I couldn’t sleep…

    The room is dark, so moving to the balcony window, I pull open the curtains to reveal the most amazing red orange sun rising from the Mediterranean.

    Mesmerised I sit outside and watch as it slowly rises and all around the sky transforms into a raging orange fireball while the smouldering sea changes from a milky blue white sheen to a moody blue shimmer, to a deep turquoise.

    The mountains are silhouetted in the distance and the olive groves peek through the shimmering haze.

    The birds slowly awaken and begin their chatter. Transfixed, I am not sure where to concentrate my amazement. It is awe inspiring and my senses cannot truly comprehend its majesty.

    The moment passes as the sun has risen and the magic becomes “today”. People start appearing and traffic can be heard in the distance. The bubble has burst. I experienced and was part of something very special, magical even. A daily phenomenon… the Sun arriving to wake up the day.

    AND it happens every single day!!!

    Namo Amida Bu

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    Feeling flat, Buddhist practice, and houseplants.

    Categories: dharma glimpse

    Dharma Glimpse by Beth W

    a pitcher plant with lots of "pitchers" long green stems opening into a jug type opening at the top, with red veins around the top
    By NoahElhardt – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=809129

    I woke on Saturday morning feeling flat. This ‘flatness’ had been with me from the previous day, when I also noticed how busy and full my head seemed, and how tired I felt.

    For me, Saturdays now bring with them the offer of attending morning Buddhist practice at the temple. This Saturday, I was aware that part of me felt certain that I couldn’t attend Buddhist practice, “you’re too tired,” “you have lots to do,” “you need to tend to your houseplants.” This is a pattern I know well – when I’m caught up with a busy mind and feeling anxious or flat, I find myself moving towards less healthy habits of disconnection, not walking in nature, eating far too much chocolate, and scrolling through YouTube. I sometimes experience a kind of paralysis, where part of me feels so overwhelmed that not much gets done besides a LOT of thinking.

    This time, something was different. There was a part of me that didn’t agree with the ‘busy/doing’ part. Despite my internal conflict, Buddhist practice won through. I set up my tablet, relocated my Buddha statue and lit a candle. As I sat down on my red cushion, sipping herbal tea, I still wasn’t sure that I felt motivated ‘enough’ for practice, or even what I was doing there – but I was there. One of my cats joined me for a little while and I noticed a softening in my anxious system.

    As Sam shared his Dharma glimpse, he talked of how his eagerness to ‘have the task done’ can take away the pleasure or benefits involved in completing a task. This resonated with me as my thoughts wandered to my Saturday morning ritual of tending to my houseplants. This is something which needs to be done, but often brings me such joy and calm. Today, with my ‘flatness,’ I had seen it as another thing on the list of things that I ‘have to do,’ – that didn’t feel very joyous, and now I hadn’t got time to ‘get it done’ before practice. 

    My houseplants live on our south-facing bathroom windowsill. The sun often shines brightly as I follow the same ritual each week. First, giving a mug of water to the prayer plant, a dash of water for the baby lemon tree and the money tree, and sometimes gently and purposefully wiping the dusty leaves with a damp cloth. This Saturday, after practice, I top up the water for the Sarracenia to sit in. This Sarracenia is extra special as I found it at a marked down price in the garden centre looking unloved and a bit forgotten. As I tend to it, I’m aware of how big the pitchers have become, and I notice it has its first ever flower bud – I eagerly rush to show my Husband! I finish by giving the orchid its weekly 10-minute ‘bath’ – the last bloom has finished and I’m excitedly searching for signs of a new flower spike. I feel Buddha’s presence when I’m here, in this spot, with the sunlight on my face. It reminds me that Buddha’s light is always there, he is always close, even when my mind feels full of cloud and the Buddha can seem so far from reach.

    When talking about Buddhist practice, Satya reminds us that what we’re doing here is opening ourselves up to the experience of perfect love. It helps us know we’re moving in the right direction when we experience a little something, something that involves a ‘knowing’ or ‘joy.’ A simple task, such as tending to my houseplants has become a richer experience as my relationship with the Buddha evolves. My eyes fill with tears as I write, this is my ‘knowing’ and it brings me such joy.

    Satya also talked of leaning in, just trusting…

    …I just need to remember to call out, to lean in, to trust, and know that I can receive Buddha’s unwavering love, compassion, and acceptance of me and all my foolish ways. It’s right here, all around me.

    Namo Amida Bu.

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    Break, repair…repeat!!

    Categories: dharma glimpse

    A Dharma Glimpse by Dayamay

    pins, safety pins and a thimble laid out on a swathe of pink cotton fabric
    Image from Pexels

    When I was walking on the hill the other day I got bitten by a dog. I was wearing my favourite shorts and, thankfully, they bore most of the brunt. But I was left with a gaping, mouth shaped hole in the fabric, which at first looked unrepairable. The owner looked terrified as he apologized profusely and I felt like I wanted to make it easier on him, so didn’t make a fuss and carried on my way. I was gutted inside, as I knew that they don’t make the same style of shorts anymore; definitely not in pink!

    The next day I decided to try and fix the shorts, despite the fact that I pretty much can’t sew to save my life. The hole now looks like a cornish pastie and stands out like a sore thumb.
    Immediately after, I decided to wash my car, which was covered in dust from the recent dry spell. As I opened the passenger door the handle came off and fell in about 3 pieces on the car park tarmac. I felt frustrated and helpless and made my way down to Wilkos to get some glue. The handle went back on fairly successfully and I had a certain sense of accomplishment, thankful that I wouldn’t have to pay a lot of money for somebody else to fix it at a garage somewhere.

    I thought about my beloved possessions and how, in some ways they reflect myself, my character, my life and my way of being in the world. It seemed like an act of self compassion to spend some time on and put some love into repairing my broken stuff, instead of discarding the shorts or palming the car off onto some grease monkey, who might have no sense of what it means to me.

    I thought about how my external reparations might be considered a metaphor for the internal work that I’m engaged in at the moment. Taking care of all my wounded parts and helping to heal the internal system that constitutes my psychological landscape.

    For me, these occurrences are never arbitrary, always loaded with meaning and quite intentionally sent to show us a deeper perspective on the bricks and mortar world that we live in! The recurring breaking and fixing might reflect the fragility and resilience of the human condition and how our efforts to fix ourselves are part of a greater work that includes both matters of the heart and the seemingly inanimate things that support us on our journeys.

    Quan Yin Dharma Glimpse

    Categories: buddhism dharma glimpse

    A Dharma Glimpse by Angela

    A wooden statue, of Quan Yin, a female Buddhist Saint, wearing flowing robes and holding an upturned vase on a small alter. The statue is about one and a half feet tall. There is a small red vase on the right, full of wildflowers, a candle stick with a lit cnadle on the left and two small offering bowls filled with water in front.
    The ancestor shrine, with Quan Yin, at Bright Earth

    I was dusting the Rupas in the shrine room this morning as part of my cleaning duties, cleaning the shrine room always feels like an honour and it is easier for me to do it mindfully and regard it as part of my practise than cleaning other things, although of course any cleaning or indeed any action, can be done this way.

    I came to Quan Yin, gently wiping her hands and face, and I put one hand on her shoulder to make sure I didn’t move her or knock her off-balance. As I did so, I felt that the experience was completely reciprocal; that she had a hand on my shoulder and was steadying me as the practise of cleaning her cleansed me and ‘blew a little of the dust from the mirror of my heart’ as they say in Bhakti Yoga.

    Namo Amida Butsu

    Can all Errands be Prayer?

    Categories: dharma glimpse

    Dharma Glimpse by Kaspa

    Photo by RODNAE Productions:

    This morning I have to send a new Chromebook back. We bought it to run Zoom practice sessions on and the network card isn’t good enough. I’ve been anticipating this with lots of resentment.

    It took a long time to set up the Chromebook when it arrived (in retrospect, because the internet connection kept dropping, I imagine) and I have lots better things I could be doing with my time this morning, and, and….

    As I was mulling this over just now a thought appeared. What if you could make this job into a form of prayer?

    What would that look like, I wondered.

    Saying thank you to all the processes and people and materials that went into creating this technology. Recognising the cost to the land for extracting these materials. Recognising the suffering of some people in this process.

    Cultivating the intention to join people from far away with our Buddhist practice.

    And perhaps something about dropping any of the words and simply approaching the job with some mindfulness and curiosity about how it is do be in relationship to this errand, to this Chromebook, to this cardboard box in this moment. Who knows what might come of that? (Some thoughts like the ones above, I guess, and perhaps something else as well.)

    Making and Losing Friends

    Categories: buddhism dharma glimpse

    A Dharma Glimpse by Aidan

    Photo by Arthur Brognoli

    Last week, I unexpectedly reconnected with an old friend with whom I had once been very close but fell out with five long years ago.

    We had made apologies for what happened and spoken on and off since then, but my anxieties, my clinging to old memories and fears, held us back from really coming back into each other’s lives.

    Perhaps I was held back by my ego, by my desire, not for something, but to avoid something.

    To avoid confronting the past and risking embracing a renewed friendship that may end in the same way again.

    I had long thought that we had fallen out of each other’s lives for good.

    I’d accepted that.

    Despite the occasional text message, we fell out of touch yet again not too long ago and I felt that I had wasted my final chance at reconciliation.

    But a chance encounter on a train and a conversation with a mutual friend led us to spend real time together for the first time in half a decade.

    It was strange.

    Awkward to start with, but then special.

    Like reliving old times.

    It has left me thinking ever since about second chances and the all-too strange coincidences of life.

    At a time when I was thinking a lot about how I had messed up an opportunity to reconnect, accepting the consequences, everything just seemed to line up, well beyond either of our controls, to bring us together.

    I cannot explain how this happened or why, but I’ve accepted, after meditating on it, that I don’t need to.

    I must just be grateful that it happened at all.

    It has got me thinking, too, about that most important concept: impermanence.

    The impermanence of our original friendship.

    The impermanence of our distance.

    The impermanence of our lives and how much things have changed for the both of us in the years since.

    Perhaps the impermanence of our renewed relationship.

    I have spent so many years desiring to fix things between us, and yet desiring to avoid fresh hurt.

    Every step forward we have taken before has left me wanting to step back away again.

    But now that that desire is met, what now?

    I know that the answer must be to just enjoy it, to accept what we had, what we lost, and what we have again.

    Perhaps that is easier said than done.

    But I must now put my practice to work, to value what we’ve got now, and accept that things will come and go as life intended.

    I have considered that, maybe, the lesson I am meant to draw from this was that I was only able to reach my desire – to reconcile and reunite with my friend – only when I no longer desired it.

    It came to me naturally, when my desire was lost, replaced by grief, and then acceptance and when there was nothing left to fear and no more hope of seeking this.

    In acceptance of what I had, came what I had sought.

    And happiness came not through wanting this, but by it coming to me when the time was right for me to receive it, free of fear and prejudgements and preconceptions of what I wanted from it.

    After all, our reunion came about, not as a result of me seeking my desire, but through pure quirk of fate.

    I never believed that we would reconnect, but life made it happen.

    Perhaps we will be friends for many years once again, perhaps we will not.

    Life will decide and I must just play with whatever hand I am dealt and accept our friendship, however long or short it may be this time, for the unexpected gift that it is.

    The Solace of Surrender

    Categories: dharma glimpse

    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