2020 February 18th. One of our trees blew over last night. Always sad when one goes horizontal.
This lunchtime I went out for a walk to stretch my legs. In the fields around the monastery there have been thousands upon thousands of trees planted over the past thirty or more years. Each year more young and tender/vulnerable trees are planted. How they need protection too. From the high winds and from the animals, mostly rabbits, who eat them. There are special plastic tubes that slip over the young single stem whips, as they are called. Then around the tube is a chicken wire tube for extra protection. I could not help but notice the care and attention that has gone into making sure the rabbits are not able to make a break in. Guarding the trees as they grow strong enough to fend for themselves has become an art. Large rocks cover gaps between the chicken wire and the uneven ground they rest on. And I see a square of cardboard slotted around the tree inside the plastic guard to inhibit vegetation growth close to the treelet! We want these trees to survive and the majority do.
There is a link in my mind to what is happening here in the monastery this week. New Baby Buddhas protected by their fresh new promise to keep the Precepts and follow where they lead in life. Tender flowers and we do everything to guide people in what is perhaps the most important journey of their lives. Inwards. The journey had no beginning and has no end yet taking the formal step to commit to religious practice is not nothing. No vow or promise is taken lightly. However, there is much that comes into one’s life to cause one to fall over. And much that weighs one down, causing the picking up of the practice again hard. Really hard.
A ceremony which happened the other night is especially significant. It reflects the need to recognize at all times when one has acted in ways which takes one away from ones own good intentions. Mistakes. Recognize AND accept mistakes – that’s what causes one not to be weighed down by all the self-recriminations, guilt or denial. Acceptance is like the care we take to protect the young tender trees. The wind blows, snow comes in the winter and we get nibbled at from time to time (Oh and we nibble on others too don’t forget!) Recognizing our vulnerability, taking care to take care of ourselves is paramount. During the long and slow procession in dim light which is at the start of the ceremony, there is a chant. Hail Shakyamuni Buddha. Over and over and over again. Hail Shakyamuni Buddha. Over and over and over again.
Just sometimes, when in extremity or not, all that is left to us is to look up. The chant and the ceremony is about looking up in darkness. Faith.
There are no articles of faith in Buddhism, and trust can be used in place of faith. But faith in….what? Trust what? Hail Shakyamuni Buddha. Always we are on Vulture Peak listening to the Buddha.