January 27, 2018 at 8:10 am #2649
A Buddha offers refuge to all. Which means that a true refuge — one that is open everybody — will be a messy mix of humanity. They will be loud and cacophonous places filled with people fleeing troubled lands and situations. Refugees will often be stressed, worried, and traumatized. They may speak different languages and have different customs and cultural norms. It is likely, they will have lost everything and will be grieving or emotionally numb.
In a refuge, love, compassion, and human understanding are offered to everyone — no matter how difficult. To be a Refuge — either spiritual or material — we must be willing to welcome all. It should not matter what people look like, where they have come from, or what they have done.
This is hard spiritual training for individuals and faith communities. Refuge is the tangible practice of extending love to friends and enemies alike. Offering refuge means welcoming the pleasant and the unpleasant. It is providing hospitality to the people whom we like and dislike. It is opening our arms to both those who agree with us and those who don’t.
We must resit the inclination to sanitize “our” refuge, and exclude those who are “hard to deal with” or who might “dirty up the place.” If difficult people and people who are different from ourselves are unwelcome, then we cease to offer refuge. We cease to be Buddhists. Because the one thing that all Buddhists and all Buddhas do is offer refuge. If our “refuge” is circumscribed, then we are no longer practicing Buddhism. We are not living the Dharma. We are not participating in a Sangha. Instead we are participating in an exclusive— excluding — private club. We are living the material life of “us and them”, which is currently tearing the global community apart.
Refuges are not anarchistic free-for-alls. We all need structure and predictability in life. It is good to have behavioral expectations and shared rituals. Providing routine and stability is part of offering refuge. But we need to be careful about hard rules. Because if we kick someone out or if we refuse to offer them refuge, where will they go?
We are totally deluded beings and yet Amida has accepted us just as we are. How then can we turn anyone else away? How can we exclude them from the refuge of our temples or our hearts?
Namo Amida Bu!
January 27, 2018 at 5:25 pm #2653
Thanks Ananda for your inspiration, indeed a very difficult spiritual training!
Thinking on Quan Yin who with her endless compassion and thousands off arms embraces it all and offers endless help and love to all.
Namo Amida Bu
January 27, 2018 at 10:12 pm #2655
I like the image of the thousand armed Avalokitesvara as well! However, I worry that if we — as individuals — are not willing to act as one of Quan Yin’s hands, this image of Avalokitesvara may be nothing more than religious idealism.
Namo Amida Bu!
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