Sometimes in life, just as we're sailing along and think that everything is going fine, we suddenly run into rough water. Perhaps people we trusted, people who perhaps have been friends for a long time and with whom one had been through many adventures together, suddenly turn against you. This sort of thing can be a shock, but as Buddhists we should be able to take it as an opportunity for deepening our faith and understanding. It's at precisely times such as this that one needs faith; and faith at such a time enables one to learn from the situation rather then falling into self-pity and so on.
Sometimes people take umbrage over something great or trivial and are unwilling to talk it through. We all generally agree that the best thing is to listen to one another and arrive at some harmony and mutual understanding, but it takes two to do this, and co-operation is not always forthcoming. Sometimes the other person just walks away from the table and won't come half-way.
Something like this happened to me recently. I have to say, it's one of the most intense learning situations. If one keeps faith and doesn't panic too much, one learns a lot about oneself and about human nature. This in turn deepens one's faith. One sees the truth of all Buddha's teachings; one understands that there is no refuge in worldly things, not even in long established relationships. As we say: “You can't take them with you.”
One learns impermanence, one learns about karma. One sees how what people profess on the surface may disguise very different motives underneath. One sees how attached people can become to dogmas. In a nutshell one learns about bombu-nature and one feels deeply a longing for a realm of peace beyond all the superficialities of this life, where people get caught up in tiny matters and blow them out of proportion.
This longing for a better world – a better world for all – is the kind of universal love that's indicated by the term Global Sangha. I'm thinking about this idea a lot at the moment. When we first chose it as the name for the retreat I didn't think that deeply about it, but the more I reflect the more powerful a concept it turns out to be.
The Buddha says: “Establish mindfulness before you (mindfulness: Buddha, Dharma and Sangha) and then stop and look what's happening”. This is called Investigation of Dharma.
Investigation of Dharma is one part conceptual study and five parts personal experience; and it's the times when experience becomes challenging that one can learn the most, because it's then that the experience is most intense. Can one practise restraint at such a time? I'm not very good at it. I'm very likely to get myself into hot water. But my intention is good. My intention is directed like a compass needle towards Global Sangha, the ideal of harmony and good will, even to those who abuse you.
Very soon we are going to have the retreat. It's shaping up to be a marvelous event. We shall have a great range of remarkable people recount their experiences, their practice, their faith. This will make it an immensely rewarding immersion.
It's also very exciting for the organizers as we've never done anything like this before. It's possible that we have over-egged the pudding, putting on such a feast, but attenders can pick and choose what suits them and do practice in their own homes when they're not mesmerized by the screen.
I'm looking forward to seeing you there, so we can all get to know one another better, learn together, make that Global Sangha heart-to-heart-connection.
Thank you very much
Namo Amida Bu