Closing the Dharma Center for a few weeks is a strange but somewhat inspiring experience. Although the space is empty of people, I can feel the energy of all our chants emanating. They resonate in the air and vibrate through the walls. The energy moves into the parking lot and reverberates into the sky. The vibration seeds all the clouds with loving kindness and precipitates as a shower of blessings on all beings. The simple act of our devoted practice has no limitations.
So, it is important to keep things simple. I have received many recommendations to do some kind of live virtual programming while we are on hiatus, similar to several churches in the area. We will explore this possibility and, if we have done our job, people are practicing on their own. The essential element in Buddhism is developing a personal practice that nurtures and sustains us even in the worst of times. If you have not developed such a practice, now is a wonderful time to start. If you have a practice, now is the time to strengthen it.
If you are new, simply begin. Create an altar with a candle or a flower. Maybe you have a crystal or something else precious. It is good to have an image of the Buddha or other devotional in image. If you have been attending our center, you have mantras to focus on. If not, use OM MANE PADME HUNG (Chenrezig’s heart of compassion). There are many online recordings to inspire you. Visualize your chant mingling with the clouds and showering upon all beings, easing their suffering.
When we are experiencing our own suffering and fear, we tend to wallow a bit. The practice of offering our mantras for the benefit of others gets us out of ourselves. We join with the larger world and can be of great help. After all, the word compassion comes from the Latin com (with, together) and pati (to bear or suffer). We come together and bear our suffering with great love and understanding. This is not misery loves company. It is a recognition of non-separateness, our essential loving connection with all beings. Our practice of bodhicitta is the heart/mind of compassion.
Following this active practice for the benefit of others, we settle our mind into non-conceptual meditation. We learn to watch the mind like watching a movie. Whatever stirs is like phantom characters following a script. These are our habitual tendencies coming to the surface. If we can notice arising thoughts in this way, without grasping or pushing away, they dissolve of their own accord. Very simple.
When we rise from our meditation practice, we walk into the world as aspiring bodhisattvas, always available to help ease suffering as we are called to do so. This is so natural we sometimes forget. Practice reminds us.