Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Three Refuges

"True love and prayer are learned in the hour when prayer is impossible, and the heart has turned to stone."
~ Thomas Merton

On the morning of September 11, 2001, I had to teach a yoga class. I'm sure we remember that extraordinary moment in all of our lives when the unimaginable had actually happened. Like all of us, I was in shock; numb and not knowing where to turn. Not sure if I could give what my students required of me without breaking down.

The class was sparsely attended, which was not surprising. All of us looked like we had been experiencing basically the same emotions of grief, anger, and denial. We all sat in silence for a while. "There are three refuges we can seek in times of difficulty," I found myself saying. "These refuges are The Buddha, The Dharma, and The Sangha..." And so began my first Dharma talk.

This past Tuesday, November 8, 2016, another unimaginable event occurred. The election of Donald Trump has been greeted by myself, as well as my loved ones, friends, colleagues, clients, and students, with disbelief, deep sadness, fear, and anger. It has opened old wounds and resurrected past traumas (one of my students said it was as if the man who molested her as a child had just been elected President). It threatens to divide us even further as a nation.

Yesterday, on the morning after the election, Kathy and I engaged in our usual morning sitting practice. As I have done countless times over the years, I reached for the Dharma as a lifeline, and my groping hand found The Three Refuges.

"I take refuge in The Buddha; the capacity for all living beings to awaken."
"I take refuge in The Dharma; the teachings of The Buddha."
"I take refuge in The Sangha; the community of those on the path to liberation."

Perhaps right now, as was true at the time of the Buddha, the most important of these is sangha. There is, even in the midst of this very difficult time, the opportunity for coming together in ways that are as unimaginable now as the election outcome was to us when we awoke on Tuesday morning. Tragedy brings with it the opportunity, if not the necessity, to share our grief, and to find our way forward, both individually, and collectively

The capacity to awaken (to become living Buddhas) resides in all of us. Even in those people who now seem to preach hatred, bigotry, and fear. Perhaps now we need to tend to our own inner Buddha a little bit more diligently. This might best be done through practices of loving kindness and compassion, both for ourselves, and for all beings whom we encounter.

Of course, the Dharma offers many doorways leading to liberation. For me yesterday morning, it was the Four Noble Truths. Yes, indeed -- I was suffering! The origin of my suffering was my clinging to wanting things to be different than they were in that moment, and abandoning this origin required the opening of my tightly closed fist. This action led instantly to a moment of cessation from the suffering, and the ability to see things more clearly. Once through the doorway of these three Truths, the Eightfold Path opened before me: wise effort, wise mindfulness, wise concentration, wise understanding, wise thought, wise speech, wise action, and wise livelihood.

My day progressed rather peacefully, all things considered. Most importantly, I was able to give what was required for my family, my therapy clients, and my students. By turning toward the difficulty, and by being willing to move into it just a little bit, liberation is always available (at least in drips and drabs).

Best wishes,

No comments:

Post a Comment