My family expectantly listened to the news recently. They were waiting, like many, for the details of what the Covid restrictions would be in-force over the winter holiday period. The childish enthusiasm and excitement my grown-up daughters have for this event has not waned over the many years we have been celebrating it as a family. What lies at the heart of this is the human need to come together and share an experience that has a lineage that stretches back into ones own personal history.
Over these past months meetings with others, friends and family have been rare for many. The sense of isolation can be very difficult to bear for some. However, one thing that Buddhism teaches us is that we are ultimately alone, we are treading a singular path and are responsible for that path. Our thoughts and feeling are peculiar to ourselves, we can try to share them but words never quite do justice to the complexity that is our consciousness.
We also learn that the legacy of the Buddhist path and its goal of enlightenment is truly passed on through direct human contact. From the Suttas, we hear tell of occasions when the Buddha, on meeting someone, if they were receptive, just being in the presence of the Buddha, and with a few well-chosen words, was enough for them to come to realisation and awaken to the reality around them.
Like being with the Buddha, it seems that only when standing next to someone can we feel in true communication and feel that there are similarities to the path that we each tread. We may not be able to be in the presence of the Buddha but we can have something close. Another member of the Sangha who is trying to live the legacy of the Buddha is often sufficient.
Video calls help to tide us over for a while, until we can experience the full range of human communication that comes with an in-person, face-to-face meeting.
Today I had a walk with another member of the Sangha. It was delightful to be in their company even though we had only Zoomed the previous day.
Being able to gather the sangha together at the Buddhist Centre still seems a long way off, but at least it will happen.
In February next year we are planning to hold a weekend retreat at Vajrasana. There will, as you might expect, be a limit on the number of people that can attend, less than half we would normally expect on one of our retreats. The team at Vajrasana have made the retreat centre Covid secure with processes in place to keep people safe. But in the meantime there are two online retreats planned, one over the holiday period and another later in January. There will be more details on the Website.
So enjoy the holiday festivities however you celebrate them, but be mindful and compassionate to yourself and those around you.