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Vijayasri reports from Croydon Buddhist Centre, in south London, UK.
“21st September was the International Day of Peace. As Buddhists, one of the great contributions we can make to peace is is our practice of metta. We experience the difference that metta makes in our own community; we have a vision of spiritual community; importantly we have a means to overcome conflict and disharmony.
Sangharakshita asks us to imagine a society where the metta bhavana meditation is regularly practised by a large proportion of the population. It would make a difference. This is not an impossible dream, if we get the message out.
So we decided to meditate outdoors in Croydon. Many thanks to Karen who contacted Croydon Council to ask for a permit. We had wanted to meditate in the Queen’s Gardens during Buddhist Action Month (June), but permission did not arrive in time so instead we decided to meditate under a tree in Park Hill, in September.
We brought a Buddha rupa, flags, leaflets, chairs and cushions and set ourselves up near a graffiti-covered wall under a spreading plane tree. After chanting Sabbe Sattha Suki Hontu (May all beings be well and happy) we cultivated metta amidst the noise of traffic and passing teenagers. (“Look! Treehuggers!”)
My main experience doing this was of how natural it felt, and how in keeping with the Buddhist tradition. The Buddha’s disciples meditated mostly outdoors, in forest clearings, at the roots of trees. Sometimes they were bothered by insects and passers by, but their presence was in itself a teaching. The Buddha’s first teacher, the wandering holy man of the fourth Sight, needed no words; his calm and dignified gait was enough to arouse faith that there was an alternative to the suffering of old age, sickness and death.
The final bell rang and we opened our eyes. Croydon was still busy around us, but it looked a little different seen through the eyes of metta.”