Sometimes the healer is a catalyst. A catalyst is a substance that makes a reaction between other substances possible, yet emerges from the chemical process unchanged, while the other participants have been changed in a way that would not have been possible without the presence of the catalyst. Thus, sometimes one is present when other people are in interaction and one’s presence makes a difference to how the others interact even though one either does not get involved at all or merely has a facilitive role that keeps one clean of the issues at stake.

In the theory of business management there is an idea of a catalyst person as one who listens but then chalenges, who generates many ideas without attachment to a particular outcome and provokes others to think outside the box. This can certainly be one aspect of being a catalyst some times, but I have in mind here something that is more a matter of a way of being than a way of acting. The person who has inner peace may be even more effective that the person who seeks deliberately to be a change agent.

I remember being present at public demonstrations protesting about the international arms trade. I was a Buddhist in my robes. I simply stood there ringing my bell from time to time. I am sure that my presence defused a number of tense situations that could easily have led to violence between the protestors and the police. The presence of myself and other monks as symbols of peace brought a modicum of sanity to the situation.

The role of a spiritual person may often be of this kind, and not even always deliberately. Everybody is affected by envitonment. If you go to a beautiful or powerful place, you are naturally induced into a sense of awe. The spiritual person, just by being as he or she is, exercises an influence on those around. I remember that my Roshi was often quite matter of fact and undistinguished in run of the mill situations, but whenever there was tension or conflict in the air she became noticeably more peaceful - the opposite of what was happening to everbody else in the room.

We see from this that being a catalyst involves a significant degree of independence. It is not just go with the flow, but actually, often, going in diametrically the opposite direction. This requires one to have a deep keel. Such a keel is provided by a faith that makes one identify with the beyond rather than with the flux of the here and now.

This may help us to realise that Amida and all the Buddhas are catalysts. Their presence changes how we are when we turn our heart toward them. When we are seized by them, we are in the grip of something much more powerful and important than the viscissitudes of social interaction. This will set one aside in a certain way. A spiritual wayfarer has a different eye and ear, sees and hears things in a different way from the worldy person.

Thus we know that even if in some ways and at certain  times we function in this facilitative or transformative way, it is not really our own doing. It is because one is grounded in the limitless protection of the Buddhas that one’s life is without obstacle. This is something to be grateful for.

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