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Finding the Measureless An introduction to Amida Buddhism Session Three

Human Nature, Ordinary Nature

Amida Trust The Buddhist House 12 Coventry Rd Narborough LE19 2GR Prasada Ca roline Braz ier

Being Perfect One of the trials of modern life is that we expect ourselves to be perfect. We are surrounded by images in magazines, on TV and on hoardings of people who look perfect and live in beautiful homes, with neat, tidy families who grow up, achieving accolades all along the way. At work, we are given increasingly heavy targets, and often find ourselves in competitive situations, where status and achievement are valued. We are encouraged to seek more and more qualifications. Not only this, but often we try to juggle our work with an active home life. There is a modern myth that in all this we should be self-reliant and confident. Individualism is increasingly influential and people seek personal fulfilment through a variety of leisure pursuits, through relationships, and through their career choices.

EXERCISE ONE Think about the different “messages� which you have been given by people you have known or things you have read or seen on television or other media about being perfect or about coping on your own and not depending on anyone else. You can write these on a diagram showing yourself surrounded by other people’s advice and ideas, or you could simply make a list of commands.

Bombu Nature Pureland Buddhism talks about our ordinary nature or bombu nature. It suggests that as human beings we are bound to make mistakes and act for all sorts of reasons that are less than ideal. This is normal and, although we should be willing to take responsibility for our mistakes and maybe try to make amends, basically we cannot avoid the fact that such mistakes will happen and we should not be too condemnatory of ourselves for getting things wrong

No judgement The good news in Pureland is that although we recognise that yes, of course, we all get things wrong all the time, there is no sense of judgement. Many of us live with feelings of guilt and of being judged and we fear that we are going to be condemned if we admit to having got things wrong. We therefore react by · · · · · · ·

Trying to cover up our mistakes so no-one finds out Blaming other people when they get it wrong Blaming other people when we get it wrong Feeling guilty even when we haven’t done anything Feeling very guilty when we have Not doing new things or taking risks in case we get it wrong Being arrogant about our achievements

Facing our mistakes more honestly makes us easier to live with and often means we make fewer mistakes, but it takes trust to let people know our faults. Other people are often locked into the same way of thinking, so they may be judgemental. Buddhas do not judge. To a Buddha we are all fine just as we are. There is a little poems by a Pureland poet called Zuigen Inagaki which goes

Just as you are Really Just as you are Or as we sometimes say: I’m not OK, you’re not OK, but It’s OK!

EXERCISE TWO Think about your experiences of criticism. How do you respond when you feel criticised? Do you feel critical of others? What sort of things do you criticise others for? Frequently we are most critical of those things which we are struggling to get right ourselves. Do you recognise this in your own behaviour? How do you respond to the idea of being acceptable Just as you are?

Dependence not interdependence As human beings we may feel that we have to be independent and self sufficient, but in fact we rely a great deal on other people.

EXERCISE THREE Think about the last meal which you ate. Who cooked the meal? Perhaps you did, perhaps someone else. Whoever cooked it, some ingredients were probably pre-prepared. Bread might have been baked, sauces pre-cooked, flour refined, vegetables washed etc. Who did this work? Where did the ingredients come from? Perhaps they were bought at shops. Who stacked the shelves, took your money, managed the warehouse, cleaned the shop premises? Who transported the food to the shop? Who provided the petrol for the transport, built the lorry, maintained it? Loaded it? Some food is pre-packed or processed. Who packed the food? Who measured it and did the necessary preparation? Who grew the food? Who tended the crop and harvested it? Who produced the seed and planted it? There are many people involved in producing a meal. Make a list or a diagram showing all those who have had a hand in creating your last meal. Meditate on your findings and send rainbows of appreciation to everyone involved. Now reflect on the natural processes of growth, sunshine, rain, soil and so on which contributed to the process. Humans cannot produce any food without these natural processes going on. Send rainbows to these natural processes too.

Although it is fashionable to think of our independence and talk about our rights, recognising that we are actually recipients of many things which we are not capable of creating for ourselves is a great relief. Once we start to think in this way, we also start to be much more conscious of our need for community and for others with whom to share our experiences. We relax.

Nei Quan One of the practices which we do regularly in Pureland is Nei Quan. Nei Quan is based on a traditional Japanese method (also called Naikan) The name means inward reflection. In our regular Nei Quan we reflect back over the past twenty four hours and we work with questions to look at ways in which we are dependant on others. Practicing Nei Quan regularly can be very moving. Often it leads us to feel more appreciative of the world we live in and the people around us.

MEDITATION PRACTICE During your meditation this week, focus on using Nei Quan practice. First of all find your special space and sit quietly and comfortably, but do not let yourself drift into a reverie. This practice involves thinking. You need to focus on finding concrete examples and avoid getting into generalisations. Nei Quan involves three questions. Spend the first five minutes on the first question then move on to the other two, still holding the first question in mind. 1. What have I received? Think about all the things other people have done for you in the last 24 hours. As we have already seen there will be so many examples, you will never list them all in five minutes, but focus on concrete examples. Also think about things which you received in a more general way, you might say from the universe, like a beautiful sunset or a welcome shower of rain. 2. What have I done in return? Again focus on the concrete. What did I do for others today? What did my existence enable? 3. What trouble did my presence cause? Here think both about deliberate things you did which caused others trouble, and also those things which just arose from your presence, for example if someone had to cook extra food because you were staying for lunch or clean the bus that you rode on. At the end of the meditation breathe out and offer your gratitude to everyone you have thought of.


Session three of the programme

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