Some dates for your diary:
our next sangha meeting in Perth
will be on the evening of
6 December 2016,
which will be our Bodhi Celebration
(Note: Meetings in early 2017 will be on
17 January, 7 February, 7 March)Around the globe Amida sanghas will be gathering in early December to celebrate Bodhi Day (8 December). :: Here's the event at Amida Mandala in Malvern.Join us in Perth on 6th!
Time: 7 - 9 pm
Venue: 'Taigh an t-Solais'
19 Fairmount Terrace
Will you be able to come along? Do, please, :: let me know
And, if you can't, then join us in spirit, chant the nembutsu and feel connected to all around the world as we celebrate Light at this dark time of the year
The Land of Love and Bliss
Dharmavidya has written :: this commentary, as part of his teachings on The Summary of Faith and Practice, which we chant during each of our sangha meetings. There's a link to the whole series below.
TEXT: without which we would already perceive the land of love and bliss
Perception of the land is a foundational religious experience. Religious form is substantially grounded in it and much of it can be considered to be a kind of theatrical re-enactment of it as I will now try to explain.
Here, the land of love and bliss is the Pure Land, Sukhavati, of Amitabha. However, in Buddhism all Buddhas have their pure lands, so we can speak of the pure land of Akshobya or the pure lands of the innumerable Buddhas referred to in the Smaller Pure Land Sutra who occupy the ten directions and whose eloquence declares the truth of the teaching of Shakyamuni. However, such vision is found in all the great religions in one form or another.
To actually be in the Pure Land means to be in the presence of the Buddha, in this case of Amitabha Buddha, which is as much as to say of the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit enters one’s life one is transformed, motivated, electrified. One then has sacred energy, one is inspired, one can endure, one’s life is meaningful. This is all through the power of presence.
As Pure Land Buddhists we pray to be reborn in such a pure land in a future life so that we can be in the presence all the time. However, who among us can or could really stand being in such presence all the time? We are creatures of karma. Karmic obstacle bars our way. Here in this life, generally speaking, the best we can hope for are glimpses and these are rare because they depend upon a release from our own karmic stream, from our own being, from our deadness. A tiny drop of eternal life, like phosphorus dropped on metal can cut us to the quick.
So, on the one hand, we are exiles, roaming far from our true pure land home, like the prodigal son in the Lotus Sutra, and the Buddha is like the father who, by a variety of skilful means tries to lure us back. We are exiles and refugees. We live with some distant memory or intuition of home, a longing toward it, an impulse to recreate some replica of it or memento. Hence yugen - the experience of bitter-sweetness that is the essential tone or flavour of the spiritual life. Karmic obstacle is a kind of shipwreck. We are like Robinson Crusoe on his island. We try to make something of it, but far from home.
On the other hand, it is our own nature that keeps us so far away. It is avidya - our unconscious wilful blindness, our attachment to greed, hate and delusion that we persist so strongly in not wanting even to see. We thus build false identities based upon some ego ideal or other, casting much of our nature into darkness in the interests of making ourselves shine is a certain light or our own contrivance. Much of this is motivated by fear - fear of ourselves and fear of others.
So perception of the Pure Land only occurs when there is a stop, an epoche, a brief setting aside of our own karmic continuum. Then we perceive the land of love and bliss. This is transfiguration. It is just as the description in Matthew’s gospel 17: 1-9: “and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light”.
In the scriptures, such visions come to Ananda in some renderings of the Larger Pure Land Sutra and, in the Contemplation Sutra, to Queen Vaidehi who sees the pure lands of many Buddhas and chooses that of Amitabha. However, it is clear that one cannot effect such an epoche by one’s own effort, will or desire since one’s own effort is itself karmic. Karma cannot set aside karma. Ananda and Vaidehi were brought to such a stop by their encounter with Shakyamuni, Peter, James and John by the intervention of Jesus.
This transfiguration is satori, kensho, shinjin, ‘the falling away of body and mind’. It is ’stream entry’. It is something that cannot be contrived but cannot be forgotten. This non-forgetting is the true meaning of mindfulness. The mind is thereafter full of it. This does not, however, mean that one has the vision continuously. It fades. What one is mind-full of is the recollection. Sati/smriti means recollection.
We can understand, therefore, that the transfiguration occurs when a person is stopped in their tracks and has perforce to look and see. These two aspects - stopping and looking - are samatha and vipassana, or nei quan and chih quan. When we perform the ritual of ‘meditation’ we are reenacting the transfiguration, the mystery, the foundational experience.
Of course, in practice, the majority of people performing such rituals have not had the foundational experience themselves. They may be inspired by having met somebody who has done or by somebody who met somebody who met somebody… and number of removes, and that meeting was sufficient to inspire faith. We have faith when we believe in a possibility, but we believe in it because of the evidence derived from some encounter.
Nowadays many people perform such rituals considering them to be a kind of ‘self-development’ or a kind of mental fitness programme. This is not wicked, but it misses the mystery and is wholly enmeshed in karma.
It is, therefore, immensely valuable to become aware of the presence of karmic obstacles even when, in a sense, we can do little about them directly. It is evn more valuable to be aware of the sun or moon behind the clouds, whether one has glimpsed them oneself or only heard of them at whatever remove. These things bring the Holy Spirit into one’s life and make one’s exile meaningful. Then one is able to truly take refuge.
~ Dharmavidya David Brazier, Head of the Amida Order
:: link to the series of teachings
Note: Meetings in early 2017 will be on
17 January, 7 February, 7 March
Details of where to find us are :: here
Note: Meetings are open to all.
No experience necessary.
Directions: From the Queens Bridge, travel south along the A85 Dundee Road, in the Dundee direction. Turn up Fairmount Road beside the Sunbank House Hotel. Continue to the right along Fairmount Terrace, going beyond the small crossroads beside Balnagraig School. Shortly after this you will come to a small cul-de-sac on the left hand side, where you will find Number 19 at the top of the cul-de-sac.
Here's a photo of the house so you'll recognise it!
We're near the bottom right of :: this map
The shrineroom is on the ground floor, overlooking the terraced garden at the back of the house.
Note: Meetings are open to all.
No experience necessary.
Come along and join us - and bring your friends!
All meetings include Pureland Buddhist practice, tea and biscuits, time to check in with each other. We'll plan meetings in the future to include guided meditation, art and music. From time to time other members of the Amida Order will visit us.
There's no cost for these meetings - we welcome donations for Amida projects in Delhi and the UK. Suggested amount between £2 and £5.
:: Amida in Scotland Newsletter 17: December and beyond