Try practicing being a BODHISATTVA
Just returned from volunteering to read with children at the primary school in the village. I’ve done this before, when I worked as a blood donor attendant , on the way to the venue. So in this blog I’ll try to describe my experience of service, not to bang my drum, but to balance out the perception that some people have , that buddhism is too self centred and focused on ones own enlightenment.
Though my current temple happens to be Theravada, I’ve always felt more pulled towards the Mahayana which emphasises the Buddha’s emphasis ” to go forth for the welfare of the many”. So through compassion and generosity for others you will liberate yourself from suffering.
Personally I’ve found traditional religious devotion , insincere and forced. But in doing things for others , though challenging in many ways is also gratifying in a way that wealth making isn’t .
Luckily I chose a trade , catering, that lends itself to this. Running a vegetarian restaurant for many years that was so reasonable , that just about anyone could afford the meal. Now in my retirement I spend one day in the countryside with a conservation group,a visit to a chap with dementia ,the reading thing and an afternoon gardening at the monastery.
Sometimes it’s not easy to brave the weather , leave my I Pad and cycle off. But once your connected to the activity these feelings fall away.
A famous behaviourist posed the question, ” what comes first motivation or action” generally we answer motivation , but if you think about it , it’s only when you blindly leap out of bed that the day begins.
Sharing the home made cake
Then we have to face the ” what am I getting out of this” thought. If you put this on hold and attend fully to the task the answer comes in appreciation and satisfaction.
Apparently one of the reasons children are slow readers , is that there isn’t an adult around with the time to just sit with them patiently , and slowly work through the book.
It’s the confidence that everybody gets from being listened too, that unblocks resistances .
I remember being with a child for about three months without any progress , and suddenly he started to read, just when I was about to give up on him.
It’s the same with my dementia chap, who is liable to feel stupid and panic, like we all experience when we forget or loose things.
One of the chaps from our meditation group , a NHS nurse, is returning from Sierra Leone soon where he was helping out with the Ebola crisis. He’s an ex Theravarda monk who fell in love, a true Bodhisattva.
To be political for a second in health and education the obsession with targets, forgets the needs of the person for the sake of the system. One of the reasons Soviet Communism failed accounts for this.
BUSYNESS ,reflecting on this schedule I detect a tendency to pack the day with activity as if this is a “good thing” . Is this a danger for the Bodhisattva?. Could I include periods of inactivity for reflection?
A few weeks ago I started going one day a week to the L’Arche community in Bognor Regis. The bus goes from Midhurst a couple of miles away to right outside the place , and takes 1 1/2 hours. So in addition to the Brompton I take the I pad , with movies etc. downloaded. Though on some busses there is Wi-Fi . But what I’m finding is how I have to change my pace and expectations , to accommodate for these lovely people and their disabilities. If they let me stay , I think it’s going to be a real learning experience .
Last years Reith Lecturer on the BBC is all about listening , and attending to the needs of the patient.
So before I get into any deep water , as I’m not wearing my wellies , I’ll be off.
Be kind to everything PLG Tony .