Ippen's hymn came to me at work the other day when I was struggling to find gratitude for the recent, somewhat un-forseen circumstances of my life. Although we hate the hell realms, ''we seize them again''. I always take these words as a reference to the continuum that unfolds as karma and delivers us to the conditions in which we find faith and then continue to unpick the knot of our bondage to Samsara. Whilst psychological growth is key to the process, equally as important is to acknowledge the plights of the countless others who are caught up in their individual and collective ignorance and delusion; after all, we are all in it together and cannot expect to be truly free whilst others are still languishing. It's easy to see how these two principles(ignorance and delusion) are key components of the self-perpetuating trap of the material realms. If I'm ignorant of the problem, I fail to seek a solution and become more and more enmeshed in the conditions of incarceration. I can also see how an attitude of indignation at the perceived misfortune of my fate can be an accelerant to the very fires that burn and make it painful in the first place. All of this can reduce my ability to apprehend the teaching inherent in the predicament, and therefore miss an opportunity for joy and spiritual nourishment.
It would be easy to associate my new place of work with a hell realm, even though I believe that hell is a psychological state, rather than a place to which we are banished for our transgressions. Many miserable faces, attitudes of intolerance and contempt towards fellow workers, endless noise and infinite repetition of mundane tasks. All contributing to an emotional experience that, whilst challenging, is not exclusive to the particular environment. The feelings evoked can happen to me with equal effect in the most favourable of situations. It became apparent that these things can either be an intolerable burden for me, or, an inspiration to connect with the power that never fails to sustain my spirit despite the adversity in my life. After all, Buddha is everywhere, in everything and everyone. But it's up to me to make the gesture of faith that transforms the apparently secular into the divine, by calling the name and inviting Amida in to my everyday experience.
Namo Amida Bu!
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