Getting On with One Another
I have a vision of a world in which there is no war and yet neither are there the causes of war which normally seem to mount whenever there is peace. Peace is not just the absence of armed conflict. For this vision to have any chance of realisation, it behoves as many of us as possible to re-examine the way that we are and the way that, refusing to accept the way we are, we project onto others the blame for our suffering.
Humans, generally speaking, are social animals that do not much like being together. Or, we could say, they are crafty animals who like to exploit one another while pretending to only have the highest imaginable motives. You and I, we have these traits within ourselves. We are made that way. We need others, but they make us nervous. They make us nervous because we know that they might turn out to be greedy, aggressive, boring or manipulative, just like ourselves.
Of course, there are a few who remain innocents and drift through life happily in a kind of cloud. it is rather nice that such people exist. The diversity of kinds of people is as delightful as the diversity of flowers in a rich meadow. Nonetheless, simply being innocent and, as it were, blind, is not real spiritual maturity. There is something to be said for “becoming as little children” but it is not enough. Simply to breath and smile is a kind of picture of the innocent life, but making doing so into an injunction is liable to be counter-productive.
Indeed, no approach of the separating right from wrong type is likely to work with real human beings except in rather rare cases.
So my vision depends upon a kind of spiritual maturity. It depends upon knowing who and what we are and realising that, even if we don’t like it, still, in the perspective of the enlightened Buddhas, one is loveable, and, therefore, remarkable as it may seem, so is everybody else.
You Don't Have to Love Everybody
This does not mean that I am advocating that from now on you love everybody. That would be asking far too much. It is easy to offer unattainable ideals. No, what I am talking about is a vision that is actually capable of changing one’s life. The first step is realising that there are perspectives other than one’s own and that amongst those other perspective there is that of the Buddhas who accept everybody exactly as they are. One does not need to think that one must be Buddha oneself - that may or may not happen and it is better to leave it in the lap of hidden powers. The second step is realising that one is as one is with all one’s quirks, propensity to error, shortage of patience, fragments of pride and smugness, gutter-fulls of self-pity and dread, and all the other stuff that human nature is prone to. Neither of these steps is easy, but the third step is impossible to do by choice or will-power. It is to be touched in one’s heart by the chemistry between the first two. If i truly realise that I am as i am and yet am loved, and so is everybody else, then that realisation is likely to knock the bottom out of one's habitual way of approaching the world.
Alone Yet Not Alone
It is likely to leave one speechless, except, perhaps, for a more or less wordless prayer. If one does find some words they are likely to echo the age old wisdom of all those who have had an “opening” of this kind since the world began and feeling those words spontaneously falling from one's lips may well plunge one into a second layer of catharsis of realising that one is not alone in this.
Think of Shakyamuni Buddha. We say that he was the only Buddha on the planet. Isn’t that a pretty lonely place to be? Answer - no. why not? Because he did not feel alone. He felt he was in the “great lineage”, in communion with all the Buddhas of past, future and present, and assisted by all the great bodhisattvas.
When a worldly person reads this they will think it is all superstitious nonsense. But the fact is that Shakyamuni Buddha walked this earth and preached the Dharma for fifty years without falling into the pit of self-defeat. That is quite something. My vision is no different. My vision is simply to put Buddha’s wish into practice as best I can.
To put Buddha's vision into practice is not really something that one can do all on one's own. We each have some personal adjustment to make, but it is an adjustment that should bring us together. That’s why I have put effort into cultivating and supporting a sangha. The Buddha’s vision was to have sangha assemblies in many places with inspired people to minister to them and to have a cadre of people who had “left home” who were available to go between and do the Dharma work wherever they were called upon. In our sangha we have these roles. We have practitioners; we have ministers; and we have amitaryas. The word amitarya is made up as amita-arya. Amita is Amitabha, the Buddha of all acceptance. Arya are people who follow the Buddha path. So amitaryas are those who, on the one hand, knit together the life of the sangha and, on the other hand, stir it up.
We should not think that a sangha is just a way of getting comfortable and complacent and we certainly should not think of it as running a successful Dharma business selling popular spirituality to as many people as possible. That would be a distraction. There is a virtually infinite amount to do in this world. Above all there is the task of helping all who have a yen for it to come to spiritual maturity. They will be a leaven. To have a world without war does not depend upon the perfection of every individual. It does not even depend upon the perfection of oneself. Trying to perfect oneself is a red herring. It depends on willingness to do the next thing, whatever it may be, and in doing it, to follow one’s heart rather than one’s fear.
As Much Courage as One Has
To practise, to minister, to go forth - these things all require faith and courage, but it is not actually more faith or more courage than people have already got. It is simply a matter of channeling it. It’s a serious matter. Life is not a soap opera.
So, to cultivate sangha, study oneself and get in touch with basic humanity. Realise the commonality of that. Come together and share. Play a part in the greater scheme. Who knows what we shall find along the way. At least we shall find one another and maybe, if we do that, there will be peace in the world.