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Are we ever alone?

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    • #3617

      On Friday morning I lit the candles and emptied the water offering bowls ready to be filled again. There would be just two of us practicing together. Later as we sat and joined our voices in chanting the name of the Buddha, I was reminded again that the act of making an offering is already meaningful, perfect and complete. It does not have to be *for* anything.

      I was keeping time using the mokugyo, a hollow wooden drum, used in Buddhist temples all over the world.

      I cast my mind back to when I was first trained in how to do all of this. More than ten years ago now. The forceful chanting that accompanies the beat of the mokugyo, I was told, was to call everyone into the shrine room for service.

      In big monasteries the monks might have a separate, early morning practice period, before coming to join the public service. This drum and chant would call them from the monk’s hall to the public hall. I remembered a comment, half made in jest, that the chanting called all in of the invisible beings into practice with us as well.

      A long time ago, when I first read a Mahayana Sutra, I struggled with the list of the mythical beings and creatures that assembled to hear the Buddha teaching. The dragon king and his daughters and various other cosmic creatures including Buddhas from other realms that appeared in the blink of an eye.

      These days when I am practising on my own, or with just one other person, I wonder what other beings are joining me. I think of David Abraham’s discovering that offerings made to forest spirits to keep his host’s house safe were eaten by ants, and how he wondered if the ants were the forest spirits.

      I think of my own experiences being out in the wild countryside and having a sudden intuitive sense of the landscape’s own consciousness, of the life of the trees, and ferns and songbirds.

      I think of how in ancient Japan the spirits of places (kami) were recognised as bodhisattvas (Buddhist saints, so to speak).

      Occasionally I still fall into feeling alone when I the only human practising. It is an old habit, to think of humans as the only worthwhile company. But this sense of the living presence of the world is much older; it is common to indigenous cultures throughout history, and across the whole world. And when we lose it – the cost is high.

      These days, it doesn’t take much to remind me that I am never alone.

    • #3620

      This summer I set up a bird feeding station in my garden.I like to meditate outside when it’s sunny.I sit in my chair and feel the warmth of the sun watch the birds feeding as I chant.there is also a pond full of frogs and might sound weird but as i chant and pray the bird song and frogs croaking seem to fit in with the rhythm.So in my moments of solitude I never feel alone I am surrounded by the spirits of the garden.namo Amida bu.

    • #3623
      Tommy Bradshaw

      I like to think that we remain united in some way or another with those who have gone before us. Perhaps they watch over us in some way.

    • #3624

      A lot of religions think of us as being humans with a soul,I think the other way round.we are souls with a human shell.I truly believe our ancestors are with us,watching and guiding us.😊

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