The years 2016 and 2017 may well be seen from the future as a turning point in world politics. There is certainly a sense that the current order is fragmenting in Europe and North America, and that the balance of power in the Far East is shifting. In the Middle East there is still no sight of the end of war, but we can pray that some new arrangement can be found that will bring the killing to an end and start what will be a long process of reconciliation. We can sense what may be passing, but it is not yet clear what is emerging.
How does all this bear upon our faith and practice as Amidists? Buddhism arose at a time when the world was changing. New political powers were rising and society was becoming more money oriented. Into this context Buddha brought the Dharma that gave people a higher vantage point, a perspective that was not dominated by personal needs nor by the quest for power and status. In an increasingly materialistic world he taught sharing, generosity, co-operation and minimalism. Our need for this message has not lessened. The tendencies that he led us away from have grown stronger in the time since he walked the earth and our need of faith in a simpler, purer way of life remains just as important.
The challenge for us is how to put this vision into effect. One might think that the way forward is always by actualising some ideal - an ideal way of life, an ideal society, ideal families. However, as Pureland Buddhists we recognise the difficulty and self-deception that can lie in that direction. We realise that this samsaric world is populated with ordinary human beings and that the effort to coerce or pressurise them into going against their nature in the pursuit of a utopian dream tends to make matters worse rather than better.
Rather it is by tolerance and friendship, acceptance and hospitality, accepting diversity, that a truly compassionate atmosphere is created and a space opened where people can let down some of their barriers and abandon antagonisms. There are many different kinds of people in this world and there is room for all. Working modestly and patiently we can demonstrate an alternative without needing a blueprint or a fixed goal. All shall evolve as it should. By having faith in the intention of the Buddhas we can trust that our actions play their part in a greater design. We depend upon the Dharma and the Dharma depends upon us. To live the Dharma life, proceeding in faith not knowing the end thus requires courage
At the same time it is important to celebrate the good things, both locally and personally as well as collectively and internationally. There are problems in Europe, but we should not forget that there has been peace here for a longer period now than ever before in history. Let us pray that it continue. The ecological threat becomes daily more pressing, but awareness of it is rising where previously there was complete blindness. Our sangha is not numerous, but its quality is very special and much to be grateful for. What can be better than to have such companions?
As we celebrate the festive season and usher in a new year we become aware of the inexorable flow of time and of the greater time envisaged in the Dharma. May this help to awaken us. The Dharma puts everything into a saner perspective.
My prayers are that each member of the sangha may flourish, each in her or his proper manner so that the light of Amida be reflected as if from a jewel with many facets.
Namo Amida Bu
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