Amida Breeze Order of Amida Buddha Newsletter September, 2021
The end of accumulation is dispersion.
The end of building is ruin.
The end of meeting is parting.
The end of birth is death.
Ken McLeod, Reflections on Silver River
In Susthama's recent article on Buddhist psychology we are reminded of the devastation befalling our planet and the role that we, as bonbu creatures, continue to play in the current crisis. There is no doubt that we have quickened, through greed, hatred and ignorance, the sickening of our planet.
Ken McLeod's adaptation of the Four Ends (see above) echoes and expands Susthama’s sentiment, reminding us that nothing is permanent and that even as we read this passage our bodies, along with the entire material world, is in a state of constant flux, obvious and imperceptible. Even if we were not bonbu and able to act impeccably the earth remains a participant in the the cosmic dance of order, disorder and reorder (Rohr).
It is shattering to contemplate that mother earth is subject to change in ways that may make life as we know it impossible. We, the people of the 21st century, live daily with the emotional burden of this knowledge. Even more excruciating, is the indisputable fact that we continue to behave in ways that are destined to increase suffering. We are in quite the predicament.
In the midst of this predicament, how do we as devotees of Amida Buddha, respond?
As Pure Land practitioners we are armed with the teachings of the Abhidharma as well as the wisdom and practices of our faith tradition. Woven together, it is possible for us to bear the pain of such turbulence and become conduits of Amida’s grace in the world.
Buddhist psychology provides an intricate map of the ways we are conditioned by and emancipated from the three poisons - greed, hatred and delusion. Much of the theory rests on the notion that we develop a fixed sense of “self” based on perceptions that are ephemeral. Freeing ourselves from the trap of “self entrancement” requires that we go beyond the habituated illusion of self by way of an authentic and selfless encounter with the “other”.
Buddhist psychology is a helpful way to do “shadow work”. Facing the particular ways we perpetuate greed, hatred and ignorance usually requires guidance, as well as a good measure of humility and courage. We cannot help one another, let alone the planet, if we are not participants in our own healing process. Inner work engages us in the journey of transformation.
Religious practice forms the bedrock of transformation. Our faith tradition teaches that acceptance is a high form of Love, and that it begins with the practice of stillness and silence. A Sufi poet writes:
“Overcome any bitterness that may have come because you were not up to the magnitude of the pain that was entrusted to you. Like the mother of the world who carries the pain of the world in her heart, each of us is part of her heart and is, therefore, endowed with a certain measure of cosmic pain. You are sharing in the totality of that pain. You are called upon to meet it in joy instead of self-pity.”
We cannot possibly know the endgame but we can lean into our experience of the here and now. The practice of silence teaches us how to do this. We can be open to love and suffering, allowing both to penetrate and inform us. We can risk vulnerability because we are imbued with the evolutionary consciousness of Amida.
Recitation of the nembutsu and liturgies are heart practices that support our capacity to trust in the known and the unknown. Sacred practice is a container in which we open, grieve, and are inspired into action.
We may or may not be able to influence climate disruption for the better. Some say we have already passed the point of no return. If this is so, how noble and of immeasurable value it is to continue our transformative journey. Let’s think of it this way: if our child or grandfather were sick and death was inevitable would we cease to care? Would we indulge trivial pursuits while they lay suffering? Of course not! As holocaust victim Etty Hilliseum writes: “There are moments when I feel like giving up or giving in, but I soon rally again and do my duty as I see it: to keep the spark of life inside me ablaze.”
Inspired by the teachings of our tradition, may we carry the spark of Amida into the suffering of our world.
Gaia Kannon Prayer
May we be blessed in our comings and our goings
May we learn to accept the truth of impermanence
May love grow stronger in our parting
May we be peaceful and at ease
If you haven't already done so, you can read Susthama's refections on the 9th and 10th Vows here. You can also read her article on Buddhist psychology here.
Additionally, you can read about our new shu members here.
Order Member News
At the beginning of June, I left my relationship, my house and garden and went back to the city of Ghent, Belgium.
For 19 years I was together with my friend and ex-partner Daniël and since 2014 we lived together in a very beautiful place in nature.
I’m back in Ghent, the city I come from. Ghent is an old town with lots of medieval houses, streets, churches and a castle in the middle of the city. It has a rich social cultural and spiritual life and history. It is here that I did grew up and lived most of my life, where my family and most of my friends live, Karen – also an order member – lives here too and others who attend the meetings of the Amida Sangha Belgium, like Tom, Gert and Annemie also live close by.
There are also different Buddhist groups active here. Every year there is a Buddhist day in the month of September to let the general public know more about Buddhism and its practice. Two times, the Amida Order contributed to this day and we are well received and liked by those groups.
As the years with Daniël passed, I realised more and more that I was stuck in a relationship that did not have many perspectives in growth. I realised more and more how I took refuge in security, comfort, being accepted and less important virtues or qualities. Our shared love for nature and an ecological lifestyle were one of those, very valuable of course and that made me doubtful about taking decisions. But more and more it became clear that to follow the vocation of living the life of an Amitarya, was not supported and had only few growing-possibilities.
The protection my ex-partner wanted to give me – with good intentions – by trying to keep me home took so much of my energy and limited me very much. He wanted to protect me against the world, against the suffering, against making mistakes, getting tired, ill or having more pain by discouraging me to reach out into the world. All with the best intentions to ‘help’ me and ‘care’ for me. Meanwhile Amida called me and my heart wanted to follow this calling and give, meet, act, do things for the world.
I am very grateful for the years Daniël supported our local Buddhist activities and the Amida Sangha : by letting people use our house and being a kind host when we came together, he provided food and helped with all kinds of practical things. Namo Amida Bu.
As so many good things also happened there it was difficult to take decisions. I had to sacrifice a lot, my garden, the feelings of safety and acceptance as ‘a good partner and friend’ and ‘good neighbour’. I was concerned about what people should think about me and how they should react. For months I grieved about the garden and the flowers I should leave and about the little rituals we had together. The responsibility for my friend who is in his 70’s and living with many personal disappointments, which could be triggered again by my act of leaving him. So the two of us were grieving together – most of the time in silence – after I told him about my decision, caring much about each other’s well-being. How shall my friend take up life again after I left and be alone again ? So many doubts and worries…..
We decided to go into a friendship to meet regularly, walking together, taking care of the garden and doing the work needed to keep the garden in good condition.
The sacrifices I had to take were taken in order to live a life more in accord with the Dharma and the truth in my heart. It is so important to be surrounded with people who can support my vocation. Feeling very closely connected to people who engage together in Dharma-work, who are accepting about our bombu-nature and supporting in kindly loving acts and gestures that encourage reaching out, where spiritual growth is a real possibility : these are the kind of relationships, friendships that are worthy to support now. Those good friends help you, nurture your vocation and your faith, with them you can find a real refuge.
So – being faced with all those sacrifices I made – the act of offering all to Amida did grow to become so important in my practice. Taking refuge again and again in the Buddha of infinite light I offered and offered, fears, grief, feelings of despair and loneliness, my ‘lost’ love for the flowers and nature, my worries about my friend and my own well-being, the ‘lost’ house we built together and the ‘lost’ garden we made, big sadness, shame of being in the wrong relationship again and having taken ‘wrong’ decisions again in my life …… I offered and offered all to Amida and Amida brought me so much liberation and peace of mind, to help to know how to go forth. Good supportive sangha-friends and others who helped me in all kinds of ways. The teachings, the sutra, the vows, the precepts I took, all were a refuge to be able to go on my path in the new direction.
So now I am here in this flat and I’m more sure that I’m a big bombu. I took refuge in safety again by renting a comfortable flat in a beautiful area in Ghent close to a nature-space. Another stage in the life of a bombu that is more and more directed toward living in Amida’s light while hoping to be able to reflect this light more and more into the world.
I have been a lay member of the Order for about 18 years, but due to ill health (Parkinson's disease), I’m not an active member. But although I'm not physically able to contribute to the Order I feel a strong eternal heart to heart and spiritual connection that we are all held and accepted in Amida's love and light.
I joined the Amida Sangha about 22 years ago after reading Dharmavidya's book Zen Therapy. I found it really Inspiring and contacted the publisher. A short while later I found myself enrolling on an Amida course in Buddhist psychotherapy. I was really struck by Dharmavidya - his teachings, warmth, wisdom and acceptance and the welcome and warmth I received from the Amida community in the Buddhist House. During the training I felt held and safe when long forgotten feelings arose. There was a lightness there, as well as an understanding and recognition of these feelings, which helped me face them in a safe way.
When Dharmavidya invited me to join the Order and I took refuge at the Buddhist House at the end of the ceremony I experienced something that’s hard to put into words. I was briefly aware of a small wispy cloud-like image flowing left to right, high above me in the shrine room, of a stream of ancient figures in robes which felt like they have always been there. This wasn’t at a level of awareness I could talk about at the time but it felt like we were all part of something much bigger than ourselves, something eternal and unknown.
For much of my life, I’ve placed my faith in self-power, but since my illness and seeing the suffering and illness of others, I know self-power is just a delusion. I remember Dharmavidya saying we all have faith, but it's what we have faith in, where we place that faith, that’s important. Faith now feels like something not belonging to me or of my own making, but rather an encounter with other-power and seeing this faith in others.
When my younger brother was diagnosed with a very sudden and rare terminal illness, it came as a great shock. Seeing him in hospital I was worried that I might cry in case it made him upset so I tried to hold back my tears. I said “hello” and held his hand. He didn't recognize me but that felt ok. But as I looked at him lying there so unwell, I started crying. I turned away so he wouldn't see my tears. But he pulled on my arm to turn me towards him, and as I leant over, he saw the Quan Yin pendant I was wearing. Taking hold of it, he started pressing it on the back of his hand. He was looking up at me and saw me crying. He smiled and looked so blissful and said “How sweet.” For a moment it felt like we were held in a different world, where there existed both terrible sadness and also great bliss, which felt like different sides of the same coin but separate and distinct. And that they couldn’t exist on their own, only in relation to each other.
A few years later my younger sister was suddenly taken ill with cancer, another great shock. She was distressed and suffering greatly. I was at her bedside and desperately trying to find words to comfort her. I felt so helpless and alone and wished someone was there who’d know what to say, like Dharmavidya, Modgala or Sujatin. And as soon as I thought this I had a similar experience to the one I had when I took refuge. For a fleeting moment I felt the presence of the same wispy cloud-like flowing figures above my head, accompanied by the thought, “Silly, you’ve never been on your own; how could you forget?”
About three years ago my main Parkinson’s medication stopped working properly, as I'd been taking it for so long. This results in "on" and "off " periods of dyskinesia (uncontrolled movement) and rigidity, which are very unpredictable and painful. My PD consultant offered me the option of having DBS (deep brain stimulation) a long operation which sounded too scary to even consider, but I found myself having tests and was given a date for surgery. I know I couldn't have faced my operation without the support, care and love of my husband, family and friends, and Dharmavidya and the Amida Order. I was in hospital for three weeks and felt very blessed and held by all this care, love, faith and prayers. I remember waking up after the operation. My first feeling was of surprise that I felt OK and hadn't had a stroke, as there was a small risk this might happen during surgery.
Since the operation, the on and off periods and pain are still a daily problem but aren't quite so extreme. I have a level of calmness where I'm not so focused on my pain and stiffness. This gives me the space to step back and see the extent of my delusions, not only past but day-to-day ones, and I discover I’m even more foolish and deluded than I first thought I feel held by Amida’s acceptance and love. And I see that I have the choice of whether to stay lost in self-power, or turn towards other-power, what is not me, the unknown, to Amida's light, which has always been there and always will be. And I know I am very blessed to have been shown this reality through the teachings of Dharmavidya and being part of the Amida Sangha. Namo Amida Bu
with gratitude and love Jayata
The light of the moon shines
Into every hamlet in the land
but only those who turn toward it
can carry its light in their heart
“In Honen’s view, it is precisely for foolish beings such as ourselves that Amitabha Buddha sheds his light”
Dharmavidya , “The Dark Side Of The Mirror”
On 20 August we held two ceremonies online, one at 9am UK and then again at 6.30pm UK. Susthama and Vajra conducted the refuge and admissions ceremony, in which Carol Corey renewed the refuges, and Jimena Bali, Koteswara Rao Kommagiri, Gary Lee-Scott, Andrea Bergstrom, Alfred Turnipseed joined the Amida Shu and declared themselves devotees of Amida Buddha, . On Saturday 21 August, Vajra admitted Veronique Denis into the Amida Shu. Below are a few words from Alfred on what TakingRefuge meant for him.
After my surgery last February (for complications resulting from congestive heart failure), I experienced a light that was love & life. In a short time, I began to identify this light/love/life with Amida Buddha. Then, I recalled my devotions to various Christian saints & holy relics since youth—especially my veneration of the Shroud of Turin (believed to be the burial shroud of Jesus Christ). In fact, many researchers hypothesize that the Image upon the Shroud was formed by a "sudden burst of light" coming from (what had been) the corpse of the enshrouded Man—again, presumably Jesus. Thus I began to see the pattern of my life: The Shroud, Amida, etc. … with LIGHT being the "golden string" joining everything together. I now believe that all my devotions are manifestations of my "karmic affinity" to Amida—to the fact that Amida chose me from the beginning to be in the company of his/her devotees in Amida Shu—chosen for the Pure Land "from eternity." Yes, all this suddenly became clear to me when I took refuge in the Five Jewels last week, for which I am very happy & deeply grateful. Truly, my life is to be a witness to the Light.
Alfred D. Turnipseed, Jr.
South Bend, Indiana, USA
Please refer to the website calendar for a complete list of gatherings, detailed information and zoom links.
If you have any questions about what we offer please contact: Susthama
Upcoming 2021 Order meetings: alternating between Saturday and Sunday on,
September 12, October 9, and November 14.
All meetings are held at 5p.m (UK time). Zoom link will be sent by email.
Bodhi Retreat: December 8 - 12, 2021. Stay tuned for more details.
Visit our website for a full list of weekly services and special events.
There you will find dates, times and links for joining via zoom. If you have any questions about what we offer please contact: Susthama Kim
Do you have a book, movie, podcast, chant etc., you think we might enjoy? Please let us know about them!
The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable,
Amitav Ghosh Bhaktika
Reflections on Silver River - Thirty-seven practices of a Bodhisattva,
The Order of Amida Buddha, is an international Devotional Pureland Buddhist Community dedicated to nurturing faith, offering fellowship, and inspiring compassionate care for our world. We are ordained and lay, seeking individually and collectively to bring the Light of Amida into our world.
"Friends", are Amida-shu or Amida-Kai members and are affiliated through heart and practice with the Order of Amida Buddha.
We welcome you to to learn more about us and to join in our weekly devotional services as well as other events as outlined on our website. www.amidashu.org