A Dharma Glimpse is a short piece of writing describing a small revelation or a new way of looking at things – a glimpse of the Dharma! Rev Koyo Kubose, who led the Bright Dawn Center of Oneness Buddhism Lay Ministry programme for many years, introduced Dharma Glimpses to Satya and Kaspa and we started using them in the Bright Earth temple in January 2022. Here’s how Rev. Koyo describes them:
“Question: What is the definition of a glimpse? Is it a spiritual connection, awareness, or coincidence that is realized, felt, or observed?
Answer: Yes, I can be all of these. In general, a glimpse is all about bringing the Buddhist teachings and insight into the everyday. The ideal glimpse is born out of some everyday activity that shines a light inward and relates to some dharma teaching, ideally something from our weekly reading. A glimpse can be about stars or cows or flat tires. They can be lyrical, serious, or funny, and the best is personal.”
We have found that Dharma Glimpses are a useful learning tool to the people who write them. In his book ‘The Center Within’ Rev Gyomay Kubose says, “Regardless of how much we learn, unless your life changes, nothing is learned – it is just accumulated knowledge.” Writing Dharma Glimpses helps us to apply teachings in a way that actually makes a difference to our daily lives. It is also inspiring for other members of the group to hear of different people’s learning experiences and encounters with the Dharma.
In one way there are no guidelines to writing a Dharma Glimpse – if you say it’s a Dharma Glimpse, it is! In another way, it may be helpful for some people to have some pointers about where to start and how to write them.
Here are some suggestions:
It is very common for people to think they can’t write Dharma Glimpses because they’re not ‘very good’ at writing, they don’t know enough about Buddhist teachings, or they feel self-conscious about what people might think as they read their Glimpses out. If parts of you have these thoughts, let these parts of you know that you hear them, and that what they’re worried about will make perfect sense to them. You may have been mocked when reading something out in the past, or been taught that only people with a long experience of Buddhism can share their experience.
It may help reassure these parts if we say that the most important bit of Glimpses isn’t that you can write grammatically or beautifully, or that you think something clever, or that you know lots about Buddhism. This is the opposite of what Glimpses are for! Glimpses are an opportunity to be honest about something that has gone wrong in your life, or to acknowledge a realisation (small or large) that you’ve had when doing something in your daily life, or to link something you hear in a Dharma talk with something that’s happened to you. They are an opportunity to reflect on our ordinary human failings, and to celebrate our moments of wisdom and compassion.
Writing Glimpses is an opportunity to be an ordinary human having very ordinary human struggles. However little value you feel your Glimpse might have, try to trust that someone in the room will appreciate hearing it. They might react with ‘I feel like that too sometimes, thank goodness I’m not the only one’, or ‘I can see my own situation differently now’, or even ‘at least things aren’t that bad for me at the moment’! It isn’t our business to know what’s ‘helpful’ or ‘good’ or not – just to write our truth.
We recommend starting your Glimpse with an ordinary experience you’ve had in your life and then move on to what you learnt. Examples are, ‘When I was driving the car this morning…’ or ‘I listened to a conversation in a supermarket queue…’ or ‘When I gave my dog breakfast…’ You don’t have to do it this way, but we find that it gets us going and is easier than starting with, for example, ‘The meaning of life is…’ (winky face!)
You might want to jot down ideas for Glimpses when something occurs to you or at the end of each day, or choose a time to sit down and think back over your week or month. Some people find it helpful to set a target of writing one Glimpse every fortnight or every month.
You can read example Glimpses here but remember that everyone writes them very differently – you might want to write yours in the form of a poem, or include an illustration, or just record a conversation. Feel free to be creative!
You can either keep all your Glimpses private, or send them to us and tell us you only want us to read them, or share them with the group. One of the best bits about Glimpses is that other people benefit from hearing them, but if that feels like too much of a stretch for now, that’s fine! We’d rather you wrote them than not at all.
Generally it works for our practice sessions if your Glimpses are between a few paragraphs and a page and a half of A4 long. We’re happy to read your longer Glimpses if you want to send them through to us.
If you have any ideas for things we could add to this list, do let us know – firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to reading your Glimpses very much.
Namo Amida Bu!