June 22, 2018 at 8:09 am #2905
Andrew Cheffings (temple host)Participant
Last night, Ian and me set off on our bikes for the Solstice ceremony at Turning Wheel OBC Temple in Leicester. No sooner were we off than Ian found he had a puncture, so instead of arriving under our own power (no self-power reference intended) which seemed really appropriate for the solstice, we arrived in our yellow car.
It was my first time at the temple and Rev Aiden showed me around. The shrine room was decorated with red flowers, so I felt quite at home. As the ceremony started, I was struck by the deep silence of the white wall. The temple is in a valley, next to a stream, with lots of trees, and this contributes to the peaceful feel. After a twenty minute silence, which I thought was much longer because of the number of Namo Amida Bus I managed in the time – I count them on my fingers, with a little pressure from each finger in turn on my legs – we did prostrations. We were given the option of full prostrations or standing prostrations. The full ones are not a good idea for my joints (which injure easily and take a long time to heal) so I went for the standing ones, only to find my lower back complaining, and I wondered what the third and fourth options would be for those whose backs did more than complain.
It’s been an emotional week for me as a former colleague from my last work place (from which I was constructively dismissed) contacted me out of the blue. A conversation ensued via Messenger and the former colleague became the first person from that institution who showed clear understanding of why I had left, once I told her some of the details. So lots of emotions have flowed on my side.
After the prostrations we did the main part of the ceremony which climaxed with the Liturgy for the Removal of Disasters (I may have remembered the title slightly wrongly!). I found my voice was having one of its croaky disappearing days and struggled to sing the hymn. The words themselves, though, are a remedy to this, as whatever happens, so the words tell us, the Buddha transforms it into Reality.
I remember the orchestra I used to run at my last work place. Because I have some hearing difficulties I tend to work in ways in which hearing impaired people are able to feel included. Unsurprisingly, most of the students who chose to join the orchestra were hearing impaired. I had to leave the place because amplification levels had risen there to the point where a hearing specialist told me I shouldn’t attend amplified events there. The rest of the music team were really negative about the idea of turning the sound down and quite aggressive about not doing. So when I left, the hearing impaired no longer had their activities which bore their needs in mind. I hope that Amida will give them the power to remove disasters and that in the mean time their hearing will not suffer more as a result of over-amplification.
There were then more prostrations and another 20 minute period of zazen. Rev Aiden had opened the window by then and the sun had moved around, so now the sun warmed my face while a gentle breeze simultaneously cooled it. The sun made shadows on the wall which danced with the movements the breeze made. For Ian, it was even more inexpressibly beautiful, as a red acer tree outside the room, which reminded him of Amida, was illuminated by the sunlight filtering through its leaves. After the ceremony, Ian, who is a bit of a free spirit at times, got the idea to take me out into the garden to see this lovely tree in the sunlight. We got a bit of a zen reprimand for this bit of deviation from the rule of the temple and event.
In his free spirit mode, Ian had told me to wear my Amida Shu wagessa to the ceremony. I was a bit reluctant as the OBC events in Leicester only tend to be attended by OBC sangha members and their wagessas are so black and mine is so white, and the embroidery is so done with my own lack of embroidery expertise. It became an object for comment afterwards in the common room.
A memorable solstice evening!
Namo Amida Bu!
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