The Buddha, The Dharma, The Sangha

"Spiritual powers and their wondrous functioning--hauling water and carrying firewood." --Layman Pang, upon his realization

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The First Sunday of October

The first Sunday of October brings weather reminiscent of Hurricane Season on Cape Cod, when the air is so still and heavy, nothing moves, and the foreboding brings a sense of urgency, of imminent change and shorter days.  Storms will blow the last of Summer away as crickets continue to call and Woolly Bears cross roads on the way to what?  I've never known what they expected to find on one side that they couldn't find on the other...the journey is perilous.

In Sangha, we've moved from one space to another--from an open, empty, spacious, hight ceilinged gallery, to the snug, carpeted, soji-screened room where the walls are decorated with sumi-e paintings and rows and rows of musty smelling books.  In some sense it feels as if we too have cocooned, have pulled inward to celebrate the change of season and our own continuing process of becoming who we truly are.
And in some instances our "crossing the road" is just as ponderous and perilous as that of the Woolly Bear--we too must live with uncertainty, change, the giant "car" that often rolls our way in the form of difficulty, struggles, poor health, loss of love--the inevitable ebb and flow that can squish us into mush!

Who hasn't been under that car tire?

I am already feeling nostalgic for our Summer space.  We started out every Thursday evening with a long walking meditation over a smooth wood floor that creaked in places.  We learned all the odd places where, as we walked, we felt off center, and by contrast, all the places where we seemed to glide effortlessly, turning a corner as naturally as breathing, and then breathing, and breathing again, finding the cadence in our combined breath and movement.

Then we sat to chant the Nembutsu and offer incense.
One evening, a woman offering incense for the first time, returned to her chair and sobbed quietly, while her friends on either side moved closer, in simple support.
By the time we finished the Nembutsu, our zazen was unadorned, as clean and spacious as the room.  Nothing but sitting, and we parted with a few murmured words of care and well being.

But even in my nostalgia for our Summer space, I celebrate the Winter space, because it is inviting and cozy, inviting longer meditation and contemplation.  Each time I open the door, that odor I love so much, of row after row of books and periodicals greets me, inviting me to linger.
The couch is littered with huge comfortable pillows, the oversized plush chairs perfect for nestling into with a good book.
Our library Zendo--quiet, serene, darkened, muted, lush!

Here I can light incense, but not a candle.  I miss the candle's flickering light, and the fact that we cannot offer incense together.  Occasionally we practice Senrei, making the water offering to the rhythm of the moktok, reciting Gate Gate, Para Gate, Para Sum Gate, Bodhisvaha!
My words are quiet in this room, and spare.
These days I hesitate to employ words.

Still, some of us rise to look for the incense box, to make our own offering.
The woman who first offered incense this Summer, rises in the middle of our meditation to approach the altar, but tonight there is nothing more than the bell and one stick, already burning.
I feel her hesitate beside me, then return to sit.
Afterwards, she is embarrassed by her "mistake", but I embrace her, laughing, because I am so moved by her impulse.
As we laugh together, I'm reminded of the beauty of gratitude and the urge to share whatever we have, give it all away, because in the giving is the taking, and she is suddenly such a Buddha, I am filled with everything she is saying, how if everyone knew how much love and gratitude there is in the world, gratitude for her young son's continuing health improvements and the deep compassion she has experienced, no one would ever be anything but kind and compassionate to one another.
And what a waste to be otherwise.

A lesson I did not expect, from a Buddha who will attend her Christian church this morning with her family.  Who will thank God and make other offerings, in another sangha.

But in our Sangha, her offering was made without anything at all but an open heart.

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