Monday, 28 June 2010

Flower Children of the Sixties,
Peace, Love and Joy

Way back then in the sixties I used to think that freedom came from having no rules and no boundaries, and it was only after I encountered Buddhism many years later, in 1986, in fact, that I realized I was looking for freedom where it simply could not be found. It was only then that I came to realize how the material world, particularly our present day world of acquisition, speed and aggression, is full of limitations. In fact, only after encountering Buddhism did I realize that I was looking in completely the wrong direction anyway, outside rather than inside.

Further along, I also discovered that if I walked along a well-trodden path, but one not chosen by so many in the West, then by living a life which is disciplined, simple and harmless I could more quickly discover the freedom that lies within us.

I could never have imagined way back in the sixties that I would be sitting in my room overlooking a Tibetan Buddhist temple, in the south of France, wearing the robes of a nun.

You might think that for those who become nuns or monks, a life of celibacy and renunciation was a pretty drastic way to look for the ‘peace and love’ that a flower child of the sixties was looking for, but, as I’ve discovered, there’s a deep satisfaction that comes from not seeking for satisfaction in external things. You find the ‘peace and love’, and joy, that you were looking for all those years ago.

When we talk about vows and precepts we need to bear in mind that these are the supports for finding freedom, rather than restrictions which impose limitations. And are not prohibitions which enhance our sense of ‘original sin’ that many of us experience as a result of an overly strict Christian upbringing. When vows and precepts are enforced from outside, rather than being taken on and considered as a natural support for following the path, it’s all too easy to fall into the trap of losing one’s sense of self-worth, of thinking you don’t measure up to some self-imposed standard. But then the teachings time and time again bring us back to ‘buddhanature’ so when we get lost we just have to remember that our nature is the same as Buddha’s.

What the precepts do is to shut the door on all our habitual sources of satisfaction so that our entire attention is directed inward. This is where we discover a beauty, clarity and vastness of being that is unshakeable, and independent of circumstances and conditions. So when you see a beautiful blue sky, a tree, a flower, or hear a piece of music, that becomes a bonus, an enhancer of the joy and freedom you’re already experiencing, and a reminder of the true nature of all things.

Because of my Irish family and upbringing I’m reminded of what I heard many years ago:

When the Christian missionaries came to Ireland in the 5th century preaching Christ, the Irish replied that they already knew him:

‘Christ, we know him well. Is he not the singing of the bird in the tree, the light of the rising sun in a drop of dew, the glorious surgings of the ocean, the strength of the oak tree? How wonderful to know that he has come on Earth and walked among us. He is the one our ancestors have faithfully worshipped. Eternal Wisdom is his name, King of the Elements, Rí na nUile. Himself unchanging, he makes all things new. For Wisdom is quicker to move than any motion, she is so pure, she pervades and permeates all things.’"

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Great View/Great Khenpo

During Khenchen Pema Sherab's recent visit to Lerab Ling, a few of us enjoyed an evening walk to the Eastern cliffs of Lerab Ling (beyond the 'three trees').

From left to right: Lama Yönten, Khenchen Pema Sherab, Ane Pema Osel, Lama Sonam Tsewang and Ane Damchö