Ever since my ordination back in Dec 2003 I have always loved being involved in or being a witness to someone taking a step onto the Buddhist path. The aspirant or candidate taking on the Amida precepts always appears solemn, and sincere, and as I listen to the vows and see how willing they are to aspire to live an ideal life they become even bigger with a certain amount of gravitas and I find myself shrinking and becoming less Significant. It is a wonderfully moving experience and so I always look forward to these ceremonies.
I think we are like caterpillars. Just like the hungry caterpillar that started off as an egg on the leaf and then popped out as a very tiny and very hungry caterpillar who then looked for food and ate pretty much everything it came across. We are like those very greedy caterpillars, consuming everything we can with very little awareness of the harm we are causing as we continue to consume and indulge ourselves. We are clinging, grasping creatures that need so much more than most of the other species that share our planet and we are very good at making sure that we survive. We now have a huge list of animals on the endangered species list and the number of animals now extinct is shocking and sad but we are very good at armouring ourselves and acting as if we are not guilty of that. We have no idea how spiky, or poisonous, or harmful we are until after the fact.
And even though it is a hard truth to face up to and acknowledge that we are greedy, selfish, harmful, and deluded beings it can be a bright day if this acknowledgement leads one to a point of contrition. For then, just like in the Life of no regret, where it says, “though Buddha lands and worldly realms be numberless like sand, by sheer power of aspiration, I will fill them all with light.” This is a moment of transformation...like the caterpillar in the chrysalis emerging as a butterfly, only it’s better than that because the transformation is instant.
One awakens to the reality, and to the Dharma, and one becomes a beautiful butterfly. Delicate, fragile, vulnerable, but never ceasing to travel from one place to another to bring beauty and to carry pollen from one flower to another to try to create conditions in which a Pureland can be seen. They flutter about in almost every direction, always busy but without a visible direction to us caterpillars. But they have their own vision and they know that they will cease to exist one day and so they work tirelessly and effortlessly, together with other Buddhas to try and awaken other caterpillars to the Bodhisattva path. They will not stop long enough for us to truly see their beauty but they are fluttering about in and out of our lives enough to give us a glimpse and an intuition of something much greater than any one of us.
I use to take Selena to a place called butterfly world. It had a glass house in which many different exotic species of butterflies and moths lived and we would all try and stand still, hoping that maybe a butterfly would come and land on us. And one time we saw one land on a little boy and his mother said, ‘That is a gift.’ And then the butterfly flew away to the other side of the plants and disappeared.
To have the opportunity to attend and witness an ordination ceremony is a gift. It doesn’t last long, but the vows and the aspiration to follow a different tune is a beautiful and wonderful gift that Amida has bestowed on us.
Namo Amida Bu