It's easy to feel embarrassed when there are things we can't do - so we struggle on manfully! But actually, allowing others to help can be a gift to them. I've been touched by the tales of my dharma sister Sahishnu, working with the poorest of the poor in India - how grateful and joyful her sangha are to be in a position to offer her aid in any way - including carrying her when her health has meant she is infirm.
This is an interesting take on the subject from Toni Bernhard:
How many times have you said to a friend or relative in need, "Let me know if there's anything I can do to help," and when you didn't hear back, fail to follow-up? I've lost count of the number of times I did just that—fail to follow-up when I didn't hear back from someone in need, even though I would have been happy to help in any way I could.
Yet, despite this pattern in my own behavior, when I became chronically ill and didn't get back to people who offered to help, I decided that, because they failed to follow-up, their offers weren't sincere.
I learned otherwise quite by chance. A friend came to visit and showed me an exquisite handmade dress she'd just bought for her granddaughter at a local boutique. When I told her how much I loved it, she asked if I'd like to get one for my granddaughter. I said "sure," and before I could get "but I'm not able to go shopping" out of my mouth, she was out the door.
She returned shortly with the dress in two sizes for me to choose from. I picked one, wrote her a check and, when she left to go home, she took the one I didn't want back to the boutique. That made three trips for her to the same store that day.
When I got sick, was she one of the people who had said, "Let me know if there's anything I can do to help"? Yes. But I'd never asked her to do anything. On that day, however, I saw in her face that going to get that dress was a gift from me to her. She can't restore my health, but she can buy a dress for me to give to my granddaughter, and doing it made her feel terrific.
Here's what I've learned about people who offer to help:
1. They're sincere in their offer: they mean it.
2. The responsibility falls on me, not on them, to follow-up.
3. The best way to take them up on their offer is to give them a specific task to do.
When we meet people who practise we notice that they do not tell lies; they do not cheat; they do not take bribes; they do not pursue simply their own advantage; they do not steal. When we meet people who practise we notice that they do not kill sentient beings; they are not cruel; they are not violent. When we meet people who practise we notice that they speak words of kindness; they rarely become angry; they are patient; they speak well of others. When we meet people who practise we notice that they are helpful and kind; they are happy to co-operate in good work; they are generous and hospitable. When we meet people who practice we notice that they are adaptable; they have few desires; they are easily pleased; they have peace and contentment irrespective of the circumstances that they find themselves in.
Why are people who practise like that? Because they have gathered their faith and centred it upon something wholly worthwhile. They have placed it upon enlightened people; upon enlightened teachings and upon real community. These are the things that they treasure and have faith in. These are the things that they believe to be worth working for.
Such people do not lie lie or steal because to them there is no point in doing so. Everybody does things and everybody has reasons for each thing that they do. The person who steals does so in order to get a personal advantage and does not see the loss to the other person as something that matters. To the person who practises, however, firstly that person has few desires and sees that gaining many things is going to be a burden rather than an advantage and secondly that person cares for the other people and so it is not a gain to him that the other person lose something. In fact, he sees that theft simply generates a more sour world that will be unpleasant to live in. He views theft as one might view dropping dirt into the water supply that one shares with everybody else.
How is it that the outlook of people who practise is like this? To practise means to establish something wholesome at the centre of one's life and to contemplate that wholesome object. In Buddhism we call the most wholesome objects the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. If we would have faith in them then we are always struggling to see them more and more clearly. To act in harmful ways, however, makes them more and more difficult to see. The person who practises wants to see the Buddha everywhere; wants to hear the Dharma all the time; wants to live in the embrace of the Sangha. This is what matters most to the person who practises. Thus it is quite natural for such a person to do what makes Buddha, Dharma and Sangha more visible and to avoid what makes them disappear.
It's that time of year for showing love and appreciation. And also the time of year when we spend longer with each other than we'd always like! However, keep this advice in mind:
Stop fighting with your family members, spouse, or friends. Start appreciating. Enjoy each other. Stop looking at the other’s faults. Start to appreciate each other’s qualities. Life is short. Even if you live one hundred years, how long will you live with all your faculties intact? The period we have to appreciate each other is quite limited.
- Gehlek Rimpoche, "An Interview with Gehlek Rimpoche"
Here are two websites for those with chronic illness who are interested in Buddhism and meditation.
'stillpoint' in the new home for material that was previously on another website of the same name and includes a large amount of resources. The stillpoint community, which has existed for a number of years, was originally for people in the U.K. who have M.E./C.F.S. It has now expanded to include people who have other chronic illnesses and who live in other parts of the world. There is an email group, Breathing Space, for keeping in touch with others. There is also a stillpoint group on the Friends of Amida Buddhist social network.
'one breath at a time' is regularly updated with short Buddhist meditations for those who are unable to practice for long.
Tuesday evening I gave a Dharma talk and answered questions at the Amida Sanctuary in Newcastle. In this talk I referred to practice and training. Practice is the expression of love, compassion, joy and equanimity. It is the outward manifestation of our faith. Training is our attempt to deal with the tendencies within ourselves that block practice. When we look carefully we see that these always involves some failure of faith - perhaps based on fear, anxiety, greed, conceit, or the resurgence of some old habit pattern. Failure of faith means loss of nerve. All this raises the question of the relationship between personal effort and faith. The Buddhist way certainly makes demands upon us at the same time as advocating letting go. It tells us to "stand against the stream", but also to "accept everything". This seems contradictory to the uninitiated.::comment here
The Other Power teaching tells us that we do not have the power to realise enlightenment on our own or by simply actualising our own potency, but this does not mean that there is nothing to do in our life. It is like a relationship. one cannot have a relationship on one's own - it takes two - but the relationship when found does make demands. Practice and training are the same. It is neither something that is entirely within one's own power nor something that does all the work for one.
When we reflect upon our life we find that we have already been loved in some degree somehow. That is a basis for faith. Practice starts from gratitude. As we try to express our gratitude we run into obstacles. Love also entails disappointments. If these defeat us we fall spiritually. If we rise to them we find new possibilities of faith open up. A spiritual life can be a continual ascent or a series of setbacks. Actually these are the same thing looked at from different angles. If we become too preoccupied with training, we fall into a self-power attitude and all is spoilt - like trying to run a relationship without reference to the other partner. If we neglect training, however, we tend to just go round the same old circles again and again. Training means to learn from mistakes. The more we see how we are helped the easier it is to learn. the more we learn the more conscious we become of how we are helped.
On the 9th December 2009, in an historic and beautiful ceremony presided over by Dharmavidya at the Buddhist House, Narborough, the following good people took various vows, refuges, precepts, new responsibilities and spiritual commitments as follows:
Prasada became an Acharya;
Modgala became an Acharya;
Sujatin became an Acharya;
Rachel Abel became an Order Member and was ordained as a Ganko-sha with the name Amita Kuvalaya;
Orna Matri became an Order Member and was ordained as a Ganko-sha with the name Amita Pundarika;
Yaakov Matri became an Order Member and was ordained as a Ganko-sha with the name Amita Vimalashri;
Massimo D'Alessandro became a Postulant;
Simon Williams became a Postulant;
Madrakara Albiges became an Aspirant;
Tony Danford became an Aspirant;
Dawn Hart became an Aspirant;
Zee-Zee Heine became an Aspirant;
Madrakara Albiges took the Five Precepts;
Zee-Zee Heine took the Ten Precepts;
Annetta de Quaasteniet was admitted as a member of the Amida-shu;
Bruce Coleman took the Five Refuges;
Brandon Haywood took the Five Refuges;
Dean Haywood took the Five Refuges;
Richard Ollier took the Five Refuges.
On the following day, the 10th December 2009, in a ceremony at the Buddhist House presided over by Sujatin, the good person and new Postulant Simon Williams was admitted as a member of the Amida-shu.
Namo Amida Bu
video of highlights
It's also helpful to realize that this very body that we have, that's sitting right here right now... with its aches and it pleasures... is exactly what we need to be fully human, fully awake, fully alive.~ Pema Chodron
We say that there are three fundamental teachings in Amida-shu:
The threefold nature of Buddha
The twofold nature of the practicer
The singular nature of the practice.
The Buddha is the object of refuge and source of grace in three ways: as absolute truth, as spiritual presence and as physical manifestation.
The practicer is 'bombu' in being fallible and vulnerable.
The practice is singular in that nembutsu encompasses all.
Taking refuge in Buddha we choose the nembutsu as our single practice and, when we have done so, all practice becomes nembutsu.We take refuge because we realise that we are fallible and vulnerable and incapable of saving ourselves from spiritual danger by our own power unaided. We are able to take refuge because we attain faith by perceiving with our own senses, by having that faith enhanced by spiritual realisation, and by grounding it upon the intuition of absolute truth that lies beyond our immediate comprehension.
This summary encompasses the whole doctrinal and practice basis of Pureland.
Namo Amida Bu