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Powerlessness and loving acts

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      Powerlessness and loving acts

      On Wednesday evening I watched the temple door, ready to open it for people arriving for service. Fi, my Bell Master was lighting candles and setting up the shrine room. The minutes ticked on, and nobody came to the door.

      Five minutes before service Fi rang the gong. I heard Brian’s footsteps on the stairs. In evening service there were just the three of us.

      During the day I had been on Twitter too much. I had been following people’s reactions to the Supreme Court ruling on prorogation. I had been following people’s responses to Greta Thunberg’s speech to the UN. I was beginning to despair.

      Compared to all those people on Twitter, I thought, as I approached the shrine room, the three of us here tonight are a very small group.

      As we circumambulated the shrine, reciting the name of Amida Buddha, everything changed. Outside the sky was dark. The flickering candles illumined our tall, golden standing Buddha. I realised that a beautiful act can be beautiful for its own sake. It doesn’t need to make things better, or change the world. The perfect moment is already complete.

      During the day, following the news, I had landed in a feeling of powerlessness. I had become caught up in ideas of progress and making things better —important topics, of course —but my vision had become completely obscured.  The image of even a small light illuminating the darkest space has given me home in similar moments in the past, but even that couldn’t lift my spirits. I couldn’t imagine one small candle making much of a difference.

      Today I am back to trusting in the power of small candles, but on Wednesday evening the important thought was not that we should do good acts to get good results, but reminding myself that a good act is already of value. Regardless of where they lead compassionate acts are meaningful activity.

      We are so completely embedded in a culture of progress that this can be a hard truth to imagine. And yet I am sure it is true. A loving moment is valuable for its own sake.

      The service was beautiful.

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