Taking refuge

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    By Kaspa

    This Saturday as part of our morning practice in the shrine room we’ll have a refuge ceremony. Refuge is what we call it when we place our trust in the three jewels: The Buddha, The Dharma and the Sangha. Refuge is when we stop being taken in by our defensive, calculating mind and trust something wise and kind. Refuge is at the heart of every Buddhist tradition, and every Buddhist practice can be seen as supporting refuge, or even as refuge.

    The ceremony of taking refuge is a public setting of intention to keep taking refuge as our practice, and is sometimes seen as the moment one formally becomes Buddhist.

    This is the first letter to the templemates I’ve written in sometime. I used to write more or less monthly on some Buddhist theme, or using Buddhism to bring some light to something happening in the world. After November last year when many of us left our old teacher, the energy to write dried up. I think I wrote once or twice.

    Or perhaps it’s more accurate to say the energy was spent elsewhere.  Tending to the often painful unfolding of leaving and creating something new took time and energy. Time spent looking inward and treating each thought and feeling with compassion. Time spent holding wise and kind spaces for conversations and listening (and sometimes managing this and sometimes not). Time spent resting and recovering.

    Sometimes that’s what refuge looks like. Continually trusting the Buddha (both the Buddha as teacher and our own Buddha-nature) leads us into unexpected places. Ultimately taking refuge in this way leads to a flowering of love, to more energy and to more compassionate action, but along the way it can look like all sorts of different things.

    I’m reminded of William Stafford’s poem The Way It Is:

    There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
    things that change. But it doesn’t change.
    People wonder about what you are pursuing.
    You have to explain about the thread.
    But it is hard for others to see.
    While you hold it you can’t get lost.
    Tragedies happen; people get hurt
    or die; and you suffer and get old.
    Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
    You don’t ever let go of the thread.

    So this is refuge. Trusting the thread that is loving kindness to all beings and following it wherever it takes you. Sometimes it will take you into tangles, and sometimes into open spaces. This is the path of love. It is not always easy to follow, but every step we take is a liberation.

    With love

    Kaspa

    Opening up after the pandemic

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    From Wednesday the 21st of July, in line with government advice, we will be opening up our shrine room to the public for the first time.

    We will be leaving coronavirus safety up to the individuals who attend.

    There will be sanitising hand gel on entry, which we’d encourage you to use. We won’t make mask-wearing compulsory – of course you are very welcome to wear a mask during practice and/or afterwards when we have a cup of tea in the dining room. We will leave the door to the shrine room balcony open to allow air to circulate, and keep chairs and cushions further away from each other than usual whenever possible to allow social distancing.

    If for any reason you feel unsafe when you arrive or during practice, do feel free to leave the room.

    If you would prefer to practice with us from a distance or in the garden for now we offer practice in the temple garden every Saturday at 9am, and practice on Zoom for every practice sessions – see our calendar for more details.

    If you have any questions or concerns do email Satya and Kaspa at hello@brightearth.org.

    In memorium: Suvidya Gautam

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    Remembering Suvidya.

    I was very sad to hear the news that our dear friend, colleague and dharma brother Rev. Suvidya, from the India Sangha, has passed away. I knew he was very I’ll but somehow had assumed that he would be one of the lucky ones who pulled through.

    I have very fond memories of being with Suvidya, who was my host and guide when I visited the Indian Sangha in 2018.

    He was a very special person, overflowing with love and grace, always ready to sacrifice his own needs or comforts for the good of others and to fulfil his duties as a Pureland Buddhist Priest.

    He was, unsurprisingly, very popular with his congregation and followers, who all seemed to look up to him with adulation, as if he represented some kind of father figure or role model. I was very moved by the effect that he had on the people he came into contact with.

    On hearing the news, after the initial shock, my next thoughts were that, if anybody is destined for the Pure Land and qualifies for the salvifific power of Amìda Buddha, Suvidya would be at the front of the queue. His devotion was absolute.

    As always, when somebody close to my heart leaves this world, I am left with the question of how to balance these losses and hold them as part of my faith without attachment or aversion. Faith in Amitabha does not protect us from death, that was never the promise. In fact, we are encouraged to embrace death as an important part of life and to accept it as an integral component of our journeys in this impermanent world.

    My thoughts and prayers are with all who knew and loved Suvidya, I hope that we can all find comfort in the joys of his life and the fact that, as a Pureland devotee, he will now be residing with Amida in the Land of Peace and Bliss.

    Namo Amida Bu.

    Dayamay

    Rooms available for new residents

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    We have a couple of rooms available for new temple residents from mid-May in our Pure Land Buddhist temple in Great Malvern.

    We’re looking for someone who’s already connected to our Buddhist practice, or someone who’s willing to come along to practice sessions and see if what we offer here is a fit. Find out how to attend via Zoom or come to our garden practice if you’re local.

    We’re in the centre of Great Malvern and it’s a beautiful place to live for the right person. People have their own jobs and lives, and we come together to practice and to eat together once a week on a Friday night (along with occasional film nights etc). We have members of the public in for Buddhist practice twice a week and to events like Dharma talks and volunteer days when we open up to the public again in June. We currently have 7 lovely residents, plus Satya and Kaspa who run the temple and have their own flat at the bottom of the building, 3 dogs, a cat and three bunnies. There’s no alcohol, meat or fish allowed in the building. It is a mixed vegetarian and vegan household (vegan preferred) and our Friday meal is always vegan. Satya, Kaspa and a couple of others in the community are engaged in environmental activism.

    The rooms are single with an attached shower/bath and toilets – one has a view across the valley. There are lots of shared spaces and a big garden. The rooms are from £360 pcm including most bills.

    If you might be interested or know someone who might be, do write something about yourself to Kaspa & Satya at hello@brightearth.org and we can set up a conversation. Find out more about our practice and philosophy here at our website.

    Namo Amitabha.