The other day I heard a media report about how President Macron and his wife had had a terrible row. I didn’t read the details of the report, but I did think: “What do you expect? They’re a couple. Couples have rows.” But, of course, if you’re the president of France, then when you have a row and you’re screaming at one another, each telling the other how inconsiderate they’ve been or how they were wrong about this or that, everybody else is watching. So, of course, the matter becomes a cause célèbre and a bit of a scandal, but actually it’s completely normal. When people live together, work together, spend a lot of time together, then sooner of later they’re likely to fall out about something or other.
Humans are full of passions that boil away like a little cauldron. There are jealousies, there are resentments, there are hurt feelings, slights and so on. If we have great faith, then, of course, with each of these eruptions we can say Namo Amida Bu and, hopefully, let it go, hopefully, not say too much that will cause the hurt to go on and on; but it is simply too much to expect that such things never happen.
A Buddhist sangha is not immune from this. Fortunately, at the moment – mercifully, we might say – the Global Sangha is free of these things, as far as I know, right at the moment. So, perhaps this is a good time to reflect upon it, so that we know, when it happens, that it is not the end of the world, not so extraordinary that a group of people might include some conflicts or difficulties.
When such things happen, the first and most important thing to do is to turn back and look back at one’s own faith and practice. It’s at just such a time like this that we learn really important things about ourselves. We discover that we’re not immune. We discover that passions boil up in oneself just as they do in other people.
At the moment we might be watching the news: the conflicts in Israel for instance, where two groups of people are squabbling over a piece of land and in the process many people are being killed, civilians, children, and so on. It’s totally dreadful; but it’s also very human, and the same passions that are causing this great uproar, exist within oneself.
When we turn and look at ourselves, we find that there is, as we say in Japanese, the akunin, the shadow of our civilised social performance that we put on for everybody for external consumption. Within there are all the passions that motivate human beings all over the world and some of these are quite capable of being highly destructive. It’s not that we look within to eliminate these things, so much as to realise: this is human nature, and this enables us to not pass too harsh a judgement on the next person who is similarly boiling. Realising our own state, we can live in greater compassion with all.
But most importantly we can also realise that it is precisely people like this, like ourselves, who are accepted and loved by the Buddhas, and this awareness of being accepted just as one is, is something that, when it is fully taken in, touches our heart in a truly deep manner and transforms the whole feeling and meaning of our lives.
Namo Amida Bu
Thank you very much