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Pastoral letter 3 from Acharya Susthama

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    • #2685

      Susthama writes:

      Dear Friends,

      Dharmavidya has the best and worst job in this world. At the Bodhi retreat at Amida Mandala, Malvern, I made a mistake during the Shu ceremony. Completely ignorant of what I had done, he and Modgala came up to me smiling and laughing, with that knowing look, you know, the one that says I know something that you don’t. Chuckling, he went on saying that I had left out taking refuge in the Dharma, but even though I had missed it out, I had conducted the ceremony in the correct spirit so it was still legit. Embarrassed, I gasped, and said, ‘You should have stopped me and said something!’ I could have then backtracked and included it. But he laughed and then frowned sternly and shook his finger and said, ‘That is exactly what I should NOT have done.’ It was then that I felt a huge sense of love, and then and there everything was full of Amida’s light, shining on me and everything around me.
      On one hand, he is in touch with the greatest source of light and love that one can imagine and his job is to help other people shine. However, it is impossible to know what conditions any one person needs in order to shine, and most people do not enjoy being put on the spot, so to shine can sometimes feel like torture. He can only reflect it and trust that he has done his bit.  Given that we foolish beings of wayward passion, then that is hard work, especially for those of us like me who once upon a time would have cried for not getting it right and felt criticised for being told that my suggestion was wrong. Rather than seeing Amida’s light everywhere I would have felt broken and wishing the earth would open up and swallow me.
      There was a time not so very long ago when I thought I was broken on the inside and I did everything I could to reinforce that image. But, at that time, I did not know about Amida nor the Dharma. I never saw the light and seemed to dwell in a sort of darkness. I could easily identify with the Sufi mystics poems about being cracked and though I loved the idea of seeing the light better, it was more of a longing than a real and felt experience. I didn’t know what was wrong with me but I just felt like the misfit, and the odd one out. Forever, hovering around the edges of a group, pretending to act like a member and taking steps to learn what ropes there were to learn until I felt like I was being pushed into the centre of the group, with more awkward experiences and more opportunities to fail, and I would feel so overwhelmed that I had to leave and find somewhere else where I could be the outsider, the foreign alien, and forever broken inside.
      That was until Amida saved me from myself. Amida was my last chance at living life and the light was intriguing. Dharmavidya and a few others had a twinkle in their eyes that I can only put down to their faith. Incidents like the one in December were pretty common for me but I think it took about 7 years for me to really believe that I was still loved even though I kept on getting things wrong and messing things up.
      Now, I can laugh easily about my foibles and I can laugh with others’ brokenness. When others, mainly my own children, get things wrong, I have learned to take the opportunity to smile and laugh at our foolishness, in order to minimize the emotional scarring that can come from scolding them for not being perfect. Apparently laughing 8 minutes a day has the same positive benefits that sitting and meditating for 45 minutes has on us, so you can only imagine how amazing and loving we could be as a society in general if we all learned to laugh at mistakes rather than swear or cry.
      When awful things happen and we get burnt or we lose hope, it is Dharmavdya’s job to continue to encourage us to have faith and to continue to go forth passionately. When compassion dries up and wisdom slips away the last thing one feels is love. All our cracks feel raw and to expose oneself feels too vulnerable and yet he is always there reassuring us to turn toward the light and offer ourselves as we are with all our cracks and eventually we will hear Amida answer us with a question, ‘Cracks, what cracks?’ Just, “Namo Amida Bu.”


    • #2686


      Namo Amida Bu.

    • #2689

      Thank you for both of these letters, Susthama. Important thoughts and ideas. Namo Amida Bu!

    • #2693
      Vajrapala Moerman

      It is indeed a good example to always turn toward the light, whatever may happen and always go forth passionately.

      Thanks and deep bow,

      Namo Amida Bu

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