Monday, July 27, 2015

Joy is Hidden in Sorrow

Ayya Medhanandi

During these days of practice together, we have been reading the names of our departed loved ones as well as those of family and friends who are suffering untold agony and hardship at this time. There is so much misery around us. How do we accept it all? We've heard of young and vibrant people lost to suicide, aneurysm, AIDS, and motor neurone disease. And so many elderly who still cling to life even while suffering chronic poor health, physical and mental pain, poverty, disability, and isolation.

Death is all around us especially as we come to the end of the year and the start of the winter season. This is a law of nature. It's not something new. And yet we go about our lives oblivious to the fact or acting as if nothing will ever happen to us–as if we're not going to grow old or die, as if we'll always be healthy, active, and independent.

We are inclined to identify with our body and mind, defining ourselves by our appearance, profession, our possessions, social connections, even our thoughts. But when tragedy strikes, these habitual perceptions can destroy us: "I'm ugly, I'm redundant, I'm depressed, nobody loves me, I'm a traumatised person, I deserve better".

Dwelling in such negative perceptions, we are not able to stand like those oak trees along the boundary of the Amaravati meadow–patient through the long winter, weathering every storm that comes their way. In October they drop their leaves so gracefully. And in the spring they blossom again. For us, too, there are comings and goings, births and deaths–the seasons of our lives. When we are ready, and even if we are not ready, we will die. Even if we never fall sick a day in our lives, we still die–that's what bodies do.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Impressions from the 2015 Sakyadhita International Conference

They came in robes and in street clothes, with perfectly coiffed hair and with shaved heads, in sandals, in boots, and in high heels. They came from all over the world, on wings, on wheels, by foot. They came, the Buddhists, the Muslims, the Hindus, and the Christians, and some who have set aside all religion. They came, over 1,000 of them, in search of inspiration. And that is what they found.

The 2015 Sakyadhita Conference is the first I have attended, though it has been offered for nearly 30 years now. Organized by an ordained woman who practices Tibetan Buddhism and teaches at the University of California in San Diego, the Venerable Karma Lekshe Tsomo, this conference for Buddhist women was centered on the theme of compassion and social justice. It is supported by Venerable Lekshe, other nuns and monks, and dozens of women and men volunteers who gain nothing but the satisfaction of knowing that they have helped so many.