In contemplating ‘renewal’ I have been struggling to express the nub of what I want to point towards before getting into practicalities. Todays Dharma Talk which was given by Rev. Master Berwyn, What is Refuge points so clearly to that ‘nub’. If you have a chance to listen/watch, it comes recommended, as do all of the talks given this week during the retreat. The retreat will culminate with the ceremony of Feeding the Hungry Ghosts on Friday morning.
Actually the retreat culminates with the Toro, or fire on Friday evening – we are prommised heavy rain! Fire is regarded as a cleansing, an offering up, a letting go. The Japanese character for empty or immaculate depicts stylized flames, blazing up within the character. The first character of my name Mu depicts this ‘blazing up’ of immaculacy.
In a certain sense our lives, our living of it, is within the blazing up of mu, emptiness. How so? Well we tend to think of fire as getting rid of something when in the above meaning there IS only blazing up, in emptyness. Can one catch a flame? Find and define the edges of flames. Yes, perhaps but not actually. This then is the basis of ‘renewal’, to blaze up. To live, to meet conditions unconditionally. In order to do that we have to acknowledge self-interest, self-improvement/self-help/self need strategies, which most of us have ticking away in the background. It is a massive ‘ask’ to let go of oneself where we feel relatively safe and secure. Or at least try to be safe. On a survival level, of course, we do need to be safe but most of us are fortunate enough to have physical security.
On our most fundamental level, spiritual level, we unknowingly and constantly enter the Garden of the Bodhisattvas where everything and anything flourishes – including (what we fondly regard as) ‘ourselves’. The garden isn’t a place, definitely not a ‘place’ safe and secure (Rev. Berwyn talks about this at the start of his talk), assured and permanent. Yet as one of our scriptures says, it is ‘where we take our delight and play’.
In many ways, it is easy to point to the nub of the matter less easy to comprehend or accept, when there is actually nothing separate to comprehend or accept! The nub is not a concept or an ideal state to achieve either. So having got this truth out there (thanks to Rev. Berwyn) I am ok to talk about practicalities, of ‘skilful means’ because addressing daily living can quickly start to look like advice on self-improvement, which is not what we are about! The question frequently posed is, ‘when the garden gate seems closed and locked how can I get in’? That’s locked into our ‘selves’, mentally/physically/emotionally. This is where skilful means which I’m calling ‘renewal’ enters.