Last month I was at a concert at Snape maltings. Not a classical concert this time but an American Blues group, complete with horn section. They played some living music which you could describe as protest songs. Mainly drawing on the current social problems that the USA faces. The liveliness of the music brought to my mind the joy that comes from realising that Pratītya-samutpāda (conditioned co-production) is the background and foreground to our lives. Often I find such spontaneous arising of deep reflection occurs for me whilst in nature, so for such reflections to arise in a noisy music hall maybe be a bit odd. But as I said; Pratītya-samutpāda is with us all the time, but often we just don’t recognise it, we are caught up in whatever it is we are doing, the play of life, rather than seeing beyond the personal story, my story in my head, for this present moment. We can look at little beyond and behind, so that we can see that this before me is just like a play. With actors, props and a stage, and I am the principle actor, taking the leading role. So if I can step out of the limelight I can realise what is going on and enjoy the flow of life, Pratītya-samutpāda that is behind all of life.
So I mused on the different spaces I find myself. In the morning I had been meditating, bring my mind to a high level of calm, exploring the Dhyanas, (Higher mental states), dwelling in samadhi. By the evening I was in the Blues concert, noisy and brash, a seemingly very different world. But I was able to hold both those experiences, and just enjoy experiencing them for what they were, just expressions of the rich tapestry of life, just a couple of the ways that PS plays out.
This gap that I experienced, between the change going on around you and the deep stillness of Dhyana, is one of the consequences of meditation and reflection that we can all find a deeper understanding of ourselves and the world around us. Recognizing and holding this dichotomy is a training in itself, a training in practical PS, rather than the theoretical understanding we may get from Buddhist Studies.
So increasing your understanding and experiences of the change that is going on around you enables you to travel into Dhyana. So steering to the deep. The deep stillness that is part of total change and growth and movement.
I come into spaces that reveal this dichotomy on many occasions. Last weekend I was at Wymondham College in Norfolk for a gathering of over 500 Order Member’s. It was a chance to talk to old and new friends. Many people find themselves in conversation almost constantly moving from person to person. But within that noise and bustle there was also the chance to meditate and enjoy Buddhist ritual with 500 other serious Dharma practitioners. Those still occasions reminded me of King Ajatasattu coming upon the Buddha and his 500 disciples sitting in perfect silence, ‘like a clear lake’, in the middle of a forest on a full-moon night.
In January next year some of us, the lucky and patient band of Ipswich pilgrims, will be able to visit and practice at the mango grove in Rajgir (Jīvakambavana) where this meeting between a King and Buddha took place, over 2,500 years ago.
[Obviously, there is a cost to going on pilgrimage and having had to delay for a few years, one pilgrim is finding it hard to cover the cost. It would be a shame if they had to not go, so if you are able to offer any financial help, large or small, then please do get in-touch with me. So even if you are not able to go yourself you can be proud that you have enabled a friend in the sangha, to make that journey.]
But closer in time and space, on 16th September we will be holding another weekend Sangha retreat at Vajrasana. Our chance to talk with other like-mined Buddhists, but also a chance to go deeper, to sincerely practice in the company of the Sangha and take ourselves and our meditation practice further into those elusive higher mental states. Recognising the difference between business and deep calm. The lake of our minds, like the sea, can turn from a storm to a flat calm in the space of just one thought. So do think about joining myself and others from our Sangha at a beautiful spot in the Suffolk countryside.
See you soon