I spend a lot of my time working in my garden. Some of this is practical in the sense that it’s to do with growing food, but a lot of it is about creating a space that’s beautiful and peaceful and welcoming, a place where people can feel at ease.
Although the result is something that is intrinsically gentle, the task of producing it is often quite heavy work. One has to work with stones and earth and shift quantities of material from one place to another, build walls, establish places where plants can grow. The overall effect: to create harmony and a place that will have influence upon people - soothing their heart.
There was a Chinese poet called Bai Li Tian who was also a keen gardener. Bai Li Tian liked to have water in his garden, a pond with bamboo around creating a very nice environment. He wrote a poem:
Bamboo is my friend
Because its heart is open.
Water is my teacher
Because its nature is pure.
Just a little poem, but it captures the delightful spirit.
In Pureland Buddhism we always have the Pureland in mind. We are mindful of the Pureland. This is one of our Five Refuges. If you have faith in Buddhism then you are already a “member”, if you like, of the Pureland – as if you’ve got your passport, or your ticket. You may not be there yet but have a confidence that it lies in wait for you.
When you have this sense of belonging, then you want to make the environment around you something that mirrors that spirit, that replicates that atmosphere of that land where all will quickly awaken.
We live in the world of conditions and so we must work with those conditions. We work with those conditions in such a way as to create the circumstances that will induce a good state of mind and a peaceful heart for the person who comes to enjoy.
In my garden I have created a number of places where people can sit and read or they can be together and chat with some privacy and some sense of protection. It can be very hot here, so the garden has places where there is shade.
To do this sort of thing you have to co-operate with the natural elements. To have shade, you have to think about the trees. To have a nice environment, you have to think about the flowers and the plants to grow, where to make open spaces and where to make secluded spaces.
This means that even though you might be working like a laborer, shifting barrows full of stone, still in your heart there is the thought of the person who may come and enjoy the fruit of this labor.
In this way, even the most mundane things are turned into a nembutsu, because one has the Buddha, and the Dharma and the Sangha in mind as one does it, and one is creating the Land of Harmony and the Light of Amida shines.
Now I shall go back to my garden.
Thank you very much
Namo Amida Bu