Sustained by Spiritual Friends: Blazing in the Fires of Sunyata

On Mon, 12 June, 2017 - 22:35
akasajoti's picture

Today, Parami presented Hri and Apatrapya, the two Lokapalas, unfolding a single line in the Karaniya Metta Sutta: “One should not pursue the slightest thing for which other wise men might censure them.” Both Hri and Apatrapya express a positive sense of remorse and regret, one in relation to our own inner ethical sensitivity, the other in relation to the ethical sensitivity we aspire to embodied by our spiritual friends and teachers. They are the guardians of our Dharma Life, which keep us alive to our ethical values and ideals and when we fall short they help us to realign ourselves and come back into relationship. It’s been a day of reflection on friendship and spiritual community, the vast nexus of relationships within which we live and practise, which support us in living in pursuit of the good and inspire us along the path.

In the spiritual community, the rigid application of rules is replaced by something far more subtle: a living network of friendship and communication centred on the highest shared ideals.” – Sangharakshita, Living with Kindness

I’ve been very moved by a deepening in the group I’ve been in, and hear of from the other groups too. They seem to have become as chapters, almost meeting with a life of their own beyond the retreat – just dharma-farers together. A basis of trust established, our communication is both sensitive and bold, sometimes confessional, and always responsive to one another.

Dhammarati led us in the Bodhicitta practice this afternoon, connecting it with its roots in the Tharpe Delam, and grounding the imaginative aspect of the practice in our direct experience in the moment - in the breath, and our joys and pains. Breathing in the shadow, breathing out the light. And tonight, we practised a puja drawn from the Gandavyuha Sutra, compiled by Parami in 2006. Here are the verses of rejoicing, as they express the tone of today more beautifully than I can…

It is hard to find 
even in hundreds of lifetimes
such friends as these I have now met.

They are valiant givers of fearlessness
guides who give me well-being -
with these thoughts I will serve my friends.

I will think of myself as sick
and will think of my friends as physicians,
of their instructions as medicines,
and of the practices as getting rid of disease.

I will think of myself as a traveller,
and will think of my friends as guides,
of their instructions as the road,
and of the practices as going to my destination.

Sustained by my spiritual friends,
I do not fall into bad ways.
Supported by my spiritual friends,
I do not fall away from practice.
Minded by my spiritual friends,
I do not overstep the Precepts.
Roused by my spiritual friends,
I do not give up my undertakings.
In association with my spiritual friends,
I develop all the elements of Enlightenment.

I will approach my friends
with a mind like the earth,
bearing all burdens unbendingly;

I will approach my friends
with a mind like an apprentice,
free from inflated ideas of my own worth.

I will approach my friends
with a mind like a mountain,
and I will grow in goodness
like plants growing up the mountainside.

I will purify my determination for Enlightenment
as fire purifies gold.

All perfections of Buddhahood
derive from spiritual friends,
are rooted in spiritual friends,
are fostered by spiritual friends,
are caused by spiritual friends.

With my attitude toward my friends
purified in this way,
I will become unstained by the things of the world,
like a lotus in water.
I will increase in good qualities,
as the moon grows brighter as it waxes.

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