The following comes from the pen of Rev. Caitlin who is part of the community at Great Ocean Dharma Refuge in Pembrokeshire Wales. This article was written for the Portobello Buddhist Priory Newsletter and is published with kind permission.
The We’re almost home—some thoughts on perseverance
Seventeen years into the life of the Priory, and fifty newsletters down the road, what a gladness that we are still here together and practising the Buddha’s Way. In this light I thought it might be fitting to offer a few thoughts on commitment and perseverance. Of course this is something we all know about. We practise and learn it as we go to our cushions, to the Priory or Zendo over and over again; as we make the effort to turn to and act from our True Heart’s wish and not be seduced by greed, hate and delusion – over and over again; as we say the Kesa verse and take the Bodhisattva vow to train for the good of all beings over and over again. The fact that the Portobello Priory is still there and flourishing is a testament to the bright perseverance of all of us.
And yet, as we all know, at times it seems hard to keep going brightly. Whilst the shared Buddha Nature of ourselves, all beings and things is sometimes sensed and known more clearly, at other times we may feel a sense of separation from the Eternal, a feeling of being far from Home. Sometimes people speak of the ‘power of now’; but how to ‘reconnect’ with our True Heart when however we try the completeness of the present moment seems elusive, and acceptance of the here and now seems far away? For myself, I sometimes think that whatever state or circumstance we find ourselves in, it is always possible to practise and find the ‘power of bow’ and the ‘power of vow’!
In turning towards and bowing to that which seems difficult and insurmountable, we are remembering and accepting the First Noble Truth that the Buddha taught – that suffering and dissatisfaction are an inherent facet of existence – and that although there is a cause and we can do something about it, there is no reason to blame ourselves or others when it arises. In bowing, we are also turning to the perfection inherent in all existence – to the Buddha, to our True Heart’s wish – Buddha calling to Buddha, Buddha bowing to Buddha, and Buddha hearing and responding. Sometimes it helps to physically bow, to ‘walk the talk’ with the body; letting go, offering up, asking for help, standing up straight and expressing willingness in a continuous movement, until the body overrides our complaining little brain, and the Heart’s wish and direction is refreshed and restored in its rightful place.
Even as we seem to fail and flounder, we can recommit ourselves to training and affirm our Heart’s wish and intention. We can recognise that whatever the apparent difficulty, it is habits of mind that cause, continue and compound the keenest suffering, and that this is something we can do something about. We can dare to make vows in front of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, and trust that in doing so, and in our repeated, imperfect efforts to fulfill our sincere intentions, we will be aided and supported, for this is truly the case.
A number of years ago, at a time when I was feeling particularly lost, a venerable Master of our Order looked at me kindly and said, “You know – we’re almost home”. Here we are, born with a rare and precious human body, in a benign and tolerant country, and we’ve found the Dharma in the lineage of the magnificent Master Houn Jiyu. May we not underestimate or squander the merit and good fortune that has brought us to this point – we’ve come a long way already. May we all keep going and go all the way on the Path of endless training.
Many thanks to Reverend Caitlin, you are a gem among gems. Mugo