The Grieving Beard

An altar can be where lovable things and unlovable things can go; as offerings. A letter that landed as lead in the heart, books and papers which represent an upset, a shell collected on a walk, a photo of a person in need. Tonight I put some items on the altar, lit some incense and made bows. Tonight I also remember Wayne who took his own life.

It’s interesting about Wayne. Jim (not his actual name) had kept Wayne from shooting himself and bailed him out of trouble enumerable times but in the end Wayne could not be stopped, he shot himself. And his good friend stopped shaving, face hairs were neither cut nor trimmed.

About two years latter, for pressing practical reasons, Jim’s beard and moustache were shaved off. Their removal brought up strong memories of Wayne. Anger at what he’d done, grief too. Yes, that was a grieving beard and now it is on the altar.

There is nothing that can’t be put on the altar of ones heart, or carried until the time is right to shave it off.

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6 thoughts on “The Grieving Beard”

  1. A very touching and poignant post.
    it has not been my experience to place things “unloved” upon the Butsudan (alter). But this seems like a wonderful practice.

    Gassho

  2. If you think of the physical altar as pointing back at one’s own heart then, in the spirit of Compassion and all acceptance, in the ultimate sense _nothing_ can be, or is, excluded.

    Ones deep intent to not continue the course of suffering/karma is fueled by the inner movements of the heart towards Love and Compassion. Utilizing a home altar can help ‘make real’ that movement. That’s all.

    Oh and thanks Jonny; I’d rarely put something connected to my personal practice on our main, public, altar. I have an altar in my private room for that.

  3. Dear Neil,
    In Chinese Buddhism I noticed that the altars were often piled high with food offerings, lights, incense and flowers which are traditional offerings of course.

    The practice I describe is simply an extention of making offerings brought into the area of ones inner personal practice of growing virtue. We can talk about it if you like.

    I’m glad you are reading this. It is a different way for a monk. I see it as an experiment and will continue for as long as it is good to do so.

  4. I’m not quite sure why, but I do put dead things on my shrne. I think it’s partly from my relation with Ian’s tradition (I’m vajrayana, my partner is OBC), and also, becuase when my pets die, I want to continue their exposure to the Dharma. Sometimes I even offer up dead moths and flies, but hmmmm that might be bordering on the obsessive…. I’m partly influenced by a part remembered story from the Tibetan tradition whereby a dog experienced enlightenment by running into a shrine and seeing a statue of the Buddha. Not sure how you’d tell if a dog was enlightened or not lol, but it resonates with me. We had a naming ceremony for all the g pigs at Reading Buddhist Priory and they were up near the altar, so there’s another reason for my behaviour. Also, of course when people die, I put their pictures on the altar, partly as an aide menoire, but recently with dad’s picture it also felt like inviting him into the Dharma,even though it wasn’t. I like the idea that this is also a process of honouring that which is very hard to honour, thanks all.

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