Archive for October, 2015

In the Presence of the Buddha

October 26, 2015

This past Friday we had a gathering of our local Sangha (Community). It is a time to sit in the presence of the Buddha, chant the name of the Buddha – “Namo Amida Bu”, listen to the Dharma, and share our lives with one another. This particular night was special. It felt as if we were basking in the joyous and loving aura of a living breathing Buddha.

Garden BuddhaOf course none of us present were – or are – enlightened beings. Our practice, however, centers on remembering the Buddha and reciting the name of the Buddha. It is a very Bhakti (devotional) practice in which we are always turning the mind and heart towards the beloved – Amida Buddha.

So it is not surprising that our little Dharma Center was touched by the loving and blissful radiance of Amida. The Buddha is always present. It is we who, blinded by our self obsession, are unable to perceive the limitless compassion of the Buddha. We get caught up in our insecurities, our fears and judgements. We forget that reality is much bigger than our self-centered thoughts and the material world we bump up against daily.

Which is the whole point of reciting the name of Amida Buddha. The name is our connection to the reality of awakening – to that which is beyond birth and death. The name works on us continually – purify our mind-streams. It awakens our hearts so that we can experience Amida’s unconditional love and compassion directly. In Amida, none are unloveable – no matter how misguided. Touched by Amida’s boundless love our hearts are easily broken by the suffering of others.

The name – Namo Amida Bu – is non-other than Amida Buddha. To recite the name is to be in the presence of the the Buddha. Awakening is simply seeing that which is already present. It is nothing special. Yet in a moment of awakening, everything is changed.

Namo Amida Bu!

Peace, Paul

The Pickpocket and The Saint

October 4, 2015

In Be Here Now Ram Dass tells the story of his initial training in yoga. While living in an Ashram in India he would undertake a daily routine of meditation, pranayama, hatha yoga, study, etc. His teacher, Hari Dass Baba, would come every day and teach him using a chalkboard, because Hari Dass Baba was “mouni” – silent. On one of these occasions Hari Dass Baba wrote, “If a pickpocket meets a saint, he sees only his pockets.”

When I first encountered this quote, 30 years ago at age 18 or 17, it was transformative. It immediately stuck in my mind. Memorized spontaneously. Arising over and over again through the years. This one short sentence, a short story really, teaches us how our own thoughts shape the way we experience the world. In this particular instance, the pickpocket has the great good fortune to meet a saint. Here he is, a thief by trade, who certainly must mingle with a variety of unsavory individuals who live the kind of lives that lead to suffering and misfortune, for themselves as well as the people around them. They are lives that spiral downwards.

Ramakrishna_Samadhi_1879Nevertheless, the pickpocket in our story has accumulated the meritorious karma to meet a Saint, a person that can show the pickpocket how to find real happiness, how to be a source of happiness for his family and people around him. Unfortunately, even though the pickpocket encounters the Saint, he does not see the Saint. He does not recognize the opportunity that is present in the person of the Saint. Instead the pickpocket is just looking to see if the Saint has any money in his pockets that the thief can steal. In the pickpocket’s mind, there are no Saints, only pockets to be pilfered.

The story asks us to look for the filter through which we see the world and the people around us. If our minds are filled with hate, judgment and mistrust, then that will be what we tend to see and encounter in the world. Even the most virtuous person will appear as an enemy or a threat.

However, if our hearts are filled with love and compassion, if we are continually looking for Buddha’s light and love in the world, then that is what we are likely to encounter in our daily lives. For the awakened heart, even the disheveled and dirty homeless person shines with the Buddha’s light.

Namo Amida Bu!

Peace, Paul

Image of Ramakrishna in Samadhi. For more information about Ramakrishna read the “Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna.”