This morning I gave a talk at Oasis. I spoke about Shantideva and his famous text on the Way of the Bodhisattva. In particular, the text, like most Mahayana texts, begins with a homage to the Buddhas and bodhisattvas. It is possible that many western readers skip over this as if it were a kind of polite preliminary, like saying 'How do you do?' In fact, however, the whole purpose of such a text is to inculcate and attitude and the first essential character of that attitude is homage. Shantideva's whole purpose in creating the work is homage. Teaching the Dharma is his way of expressing his devotion to the Buddhas. Homage is also a form of gratitude. It is from the Buddhas that we have received the Dharma.

Then Shantideva goes on to say that the text may be of use to those who hear or read it, but more importantly he has written it in order to clarify his own understanding. So here there is a kind of modesty and this modesty is the other side of homage. In order to put the objects of devotion on a high place it is necessary to abase oneself. Unless one recognises one's deficiency, how can one fully feel gratitude to the Buddhas?

A little further on, there is the famous verse in which he says that receiving illumination is like being in the darkness of a night time when the sky is completely clouded over and then suddenly there is a flash of lightning and, for a moment, all is clear and bright. This kind of occurrence brings a sense of astonishment. Why me? Here Shantideva is talking about sudden illumination in a manner quite like Zen. The lightning flash is spectacular because of the darkness. The same flash occurring in the day time would not have the same impact or sense of revelation. Shantideva writes about it saying he has no idea why he has been granted some access in this way.

What we can take from this is the importance of being aware of the darkness. We cannot make the lightning flash, but we can be aware of our own obscurity. This is the same attitude of modesty. Then when some insight arises, one feels great gratitude and realises the precious nature of what has been bestowed.

Too often in Buddhist groups there is much bandying about of concepts like emptiness and nonduality in a hifaluting way that yet does not evidence the attitude that Shantideva is trying to inculcate. His objective is not that one arrive at a better intellectual understanding than the next person, but that he and we may have the right attitude of reverence, homage, modesty, gratitude and even surprise that anything of the precious Dharma at all should have fallen into our laps.

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Replies to This Discussion

Perhaps luminous things
need the paradox of death to be
seen

Darkness to rest against;
A contraction of the infinite light
that breaks the empty mirror
and gives birth

to everything
that ever emerged
from the cocoon of the deep dreaming ocean

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Study Grouop

Posted by Dayamay Dunsby on November 13, 2017 at 8:04 0 Comments

We had our regular skype study group on Saturday evening. Three people attended including myself and we studied some of Dharmavidya’s writings and had very helpful discussions about subjects such as Buddhist prayer, accepting death and being Human. The next group will be on Saturday the 25th at 9.30pm. This late time is due to the fact that some of our members are overseas in different time zones. if you would like to join us please email me adamdunsby@hotmail.com or skype me…

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ON BEING LIBERALLY DOGMATIC (rather than dogmatically liberal)

Posted by David Brazier on November 8, 2017 at 11:30 0 Comments

Last night I had a conversation in a restaurant in which a person reported the view that the religion of the future would be Zen because Zen was a religion without dogmas. This statement struck me with particular force because at the moment I am in the middle of reviewing a draft chapter by another author on "Eastern Meditation Meets the West" for a future publication. This chapter highlights the cultural filters that ideas have to pass through in order to get a stamp of approval by our…

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Relationship.

Posted by Dayamay Dunsby on September 9, 2017 at 20:56 0 Comments

Found this on a Chogyam Trungpa video…

''The relationship between student and teacher is like a dance…

In relating with the teacher, your critical input and your surrendering work together. They’re not working against each other. The more input you get from the teacher and the phenomenal world and the more you develop, at the same time, the more you question. So there is a kind of dance taking place between the teacher and yourself. You are not particularly trying to switch off…

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Reflections on Foolishness.

Posted by Dayamay Dunsby on September 5, 2017 at 11:50 2 Comments

I sometimes can’t believe how defective I am!! Whilst despairing of myself the other day I remembered a Shinran teaching that I found some time ago. It really made me think and reinforced my resolve to practice.

It is a Pureland teaching about the depth of our sin preventing us from being genuinely good. Our efforts to be decent, caring beings are always based in and therefore contaminated by our self centredness, greed hatred and delusion. This is due to the…

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