I don’t do well with the word ‘renunciation’, not one I’d apply to myself i.e. that I renounced (rejected) the life I was living in the ‘world’ and became a monk because…? Nope. (Renunciation – Meaning, refraining from, going without, doing without, giving up of, eschewe, rejection of.) Well yes, there is a good bit of doing without and refraining from as a monk, however for me talking this path, all those years ago, was and still is, about embracing, acknowledging what’s fundamentally here and now. Embracing all of existence, oneself included. Ideas of having and not having, fall away. Or rather the clinging to having and not having.
Last Sunday we celebrated the Festival of the Buddhas Renunciation. This, the renunciation, is pointing to the time the historic Buddha took off to live as a wandering ascetic. Rev. Vivian, a visiting monk from Shasta Abbey gave the Dharma talk. She points out at around the 8.38 minute the sort of question people pose themselves. Imagining, for example, that to do this Buddhist practice seriously you have to leave everyday life (practicing as a lay person) and ordain as a monk. This is mistaken thinking, really it is. She talks about making those big decisions such as ordaining and what can influence/drive them for example. Not the little decisions like what kind of mattress to buy or where to go on your holidays, more the biggies, life changing ones. So when you have a moment listen to this talk.
This talk explores the Buddha’s Renunciation in light of what it might offer us in our practice today when we find ourselves making difficult choices, and what that implies about the true meaning of Renunciation. Bowing to The Great Unborn, Dharma Talk by Rev. Vivian.
“Whatever you can do
or dream you can,
Boldness has genius,
power and magic in it!”
The other day I definately committed to making another batch of Marmalade. A creative act. Once committed somebody, by chance heard my plan and offered her hands to help. Couldn’t have done it without you Jenny. And the first batch of Marmalade? Maria, I could not have done it without you! Definitely committing doesn’t need to be heroic, a Himalayan expedition for example, Although I’d have been game for that before entering monastic life. The closest I got was flying over the Himalayas. Fabulous!
… but when I said that nothing had been done I erred in one important matter. We had definitely committed ourselves and were halfway out of our ruts. We had put down our passage money—booked a sailing to Bombay. This may sound too simple, but is great in consequence. Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way. I learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets:
W(illiam) H(utchison) Murray, a mountaineer, from his book The Scottish Himalayan Expedition published in 1951.
There isn’t a day goes by when I am not in touch with somebody who is dealing with a life close to ending. Or a death approaching, soon or predictably – quite a bit later. The usual measure of time doesn’t seem to come into it – a moment can seem like a life time. Hours slip by in a blink of an eye. My own father died January 29th 2000, quite suddenly and without warning, although he was elderly he was fit and well by all appearance. Nineteen year ago. He is long gone…and yet… Still close.
I see friends and family struggle with the loss of a loved one…and I’ve stayed silent about my experience. While nothing but time can alleviate the pain of loss, I can’t help but feel that as a card-carrying member of this exclusive club ( near death survivor), I have inside knowledge that might alleviate a different kind of pain — the pain of imagining the final moments, what might have been going through their minds, and whether they made it to the other side in peace.