Notes on a Buddhist path

Something good

November 17, 2015 By | 15 Comments

Think not lightly of good, saying, “It will not come to me.”
Drop by drop is the water pot filled.
Likewise, the wise one, gathering it little by little,
fills oneself with good. ~ Dhammapada 9.122

“I must have done something good.” ~ excerpt from Something Good, The Sound of Music

It’s funny how a life can change with just one step in a new direction. How the years of contemplating that step one day come to placing our singularly intention on the new ground that has been waiting for us and for this one rare and precious moment to arise.

Birken across the marshAt the end of August I retired from my working world and city life to move to 80 acres of off-grid beauty in interior British Columbia. My last post was written just days after I had made the decision to uproot my fettered existence and trade it for a world of simplicity and renunciation, of solitude and community, of raw nature and refined teachings of the Buddha.

Sharing the news of my plans to move to a monastery with co-workers and friends gave rise to a plethora of reactions ranging from stunned silence to brimming over gladness for me and this next leg of life’s journey. For all intents and purposes I am living the life of a Theravada monastic in the west. For all of us who reside at Birken our days are linked to work, to sharing meals, to meditation, to practice in each and every moment. Already I am finding my inner world changed as views and thoughts are seen across a quiet, expansive plain without the landslides of sensory escarpments that inundated me in the worldly life.

Perhaps the biggest challenge I have been facing is balancing the hours of the day with monastery duties and personal beckonings. What has come to light is the pervading tug to turn my mind and my actions inward rather than treading the same course of outward striving, of staying in constant touch with friends and perceived obligations.

When I asked Ajahn Sona, the abbot of Birken, his advice for balancing his day of work projects and overseeing the many demands of a monastery with the stillness of peace we are all seeking, he said he starts the day by thinking “I get to play today.”

Imagine that. Play. I hadn’t considered play as possible encounter since I was a child. He went on to say that whenever I hear that dutiful voice egging me on to do more and more, faster and faster, to tell it to “Buzz off!”

At first I took that as a confrontation to my duties as a steward and my longing to sit in meditative solitude for most of the live long day. Then I came to see that it wasn’t the duties that needed to be abandoned, but rather the voice that needed to be dismissed for something more wholesome, something more serene.

CloudsOver the course of these weeks I’ve heard that tender, kind voice more and more. Joy and tranquility are often by my side as I respond to the emails of those who wish to come to this place of peace, and they are in step with me as I traverse the nearby logging roads lined with glimmering aspens, firs and pines. And their compassionate friendship has enjoined me when the mind is railing against some mistaken perception, taking me by the hand and leading me back to a heart of serenity and infinite peace.

This summer Ajahn Sona gifted me with a Pali name, its meaning to remind me of a quality to be cultivated within myself in this life. This being’s new name is Piyadassi, one who looks with kindness on everything. “Piya” (pronounced Pee-ya) translates as “dear” while “dassi” (DA-see) is “to see”. Ajahn said it means to not only look upon things as dear, but to be seen dearly as well.

Yes, I must have done something good.

The Alchemist
by Louise Bogan

I burned my life, that I might find
A passion wholly of the mind,
Thought divorced from eye and bone,
Ecstasy come to breath alone.
I broke my life, to seek relief
From the flawed light of love and grief.

With mounting beat the utter fire
Charred existence and desire.
It died low, ceased its sudden thresh.
I had found unmysterious flesh —
Not the mind’s avid substance — still
Passionate beyond the will.

Image Credits:
© Tess Wixted

Comments

  1. “Nothing comes from nothing….nothing ever could….” 🙂

    Anumodana for these wise steward insights Piya Pie! May your days continue to be filled with joyful play and delightful Dhammic discoveries…

    • Piyadassi (Tess) says:

      Thank you dear Sobhanā Pie! Right livelihood is truly the steward life for me, for now. And for you my friend, may all your days spent in the wondrous lightness of being.

  2. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Brimming over with gladness!
    Oh those “landslides of sensory escarpments”; you paid attention and chose freedom.
    Good move.

    With Mudita,

    Fawn

    • Piyadassi (Tess) says:

      Oh, sweetie, mudita to you!!! The road to freedom is the last exit past those sensory escarpments. Well worth the drive. 😉

  3. Thank you dear Piyadassi!!!! I wonder if you know the power of your sharing to one who longs for such a life. I am so grateful. Maybe one day…… I celebrate your experience and look forward to more.
    Now, uplifted and ready to play! be well, Lois

    • Piyadassi (Tess) says:

      Dear, dear Lois, your words smiled in my heart. Thank you!!! May all your days be touched by joy and play.

  4. Stevie Wonder wrote a song called “Tell Me Something Good”, and thus have you done, dear PiyaPie! So happy for you, and grateful too for all you do at and for Birken. I appreciate the shared insight of “play” as our approach to each day’s duties, rather than seeing them as burdens. It gives new meaning to the Metta Sutta stanza to be “unburdened with duties…” It’s not the tasks, it’s our perspective that colours the quality of the day. Wishing you rainbows of joy always, dear Dhamma sister!

    • Piyadassi (Tess) says:

      Jeni Pie, since Ajahn shared his outlook of playful intention I have felt more and more “unburdened with duties” and relish a keen, new understanding of that phrase in the Metta Sutta. Rainbows of metta and brilliant joy to you Jeni Pie! So glad you are a Dhamma sister too!

  5. Lynn Marttila says:

    Wonderful read Piyadassi and a stunning sky/cloud photo. So happy for you and your new journey titled “play” I celebrate your heart made decision and await your next gift of words to us.

    • Piyadassi (Tess) says:

      Thank you Lynn! It’s so good to know there are friends in the world celebrating this new playground I call home. Much love to you…

  6. I am filled with so much Mudita, it’s spilling over into my own joy. Double joy!

    You have indeed done something (many things) good, but Birken must have done something good as well to have you there. A symbiosis of good! I say this, not to fill your ego, but to fill your heart.

    You each receive blessings from the other. Remember to balance these two, and soon you will see that both are growing, so that each day you’ll be able to play more and more.

    Have fun!

    • Piyadassi (Tess) says:

      Dear, dear David, now I’m brimming over with triple mudita for your gladness. Such a good reminder of the blessings we share in all the processes, the nama and rupa that arise in this life. The play is truly the thing.

  7. My heart is filled with happiness for you T. Truly. Much love and light to you, always.

  8. The Buddha, on the contrary, would advise you to see nothing as dear.

    “210-211

    Don’t ever — regardless —
    be conjoined with what’s dear
    or undear.
    It’s painful
    not to see what’s dear
    or to see what’s not.

    So don’t make anything dear,
    for it’s dreadful to be far
    from what’s dear.
    No bonds are found
    for those for whom
    there’s neither dear
    nor undear.
    212-216

    From what’s dear is born grief,
    from what’s dear is born fear.
    For one freed from what’s dear
    there’s no grief
    — so how fear?”

    From The Dhammapada: “Piyavagga – Dear Ones” trans. Ven. Thanissaro

    http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/kn/dhp/dhp.16.than.html

    “I have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One was staying near Savatthi at Jeta’s Grove, Anathapindika’s monastery. Now at that time a certain householder’s dear & beloved little son, his only child, had died. Because of his death, the father had no desire to work or to eat. He kept going to the cemetery and crying out, “Where have you gone, my only little child? Where have you gone, my only little child?”

    Then he went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, having bowed down to him, sat to one side. As he was sitting there the Blessed One said to him, “Householder, your faculties are not those of one who is steady in his own mind. There is an aberration in your faculties.”

    “Lord, how could there not be an aberration in my faculties? My dear & beloved little son, my only child, has died. Because of his death, I have no desire to work or to eat. I keep going to the cemetery and crying out, ‘Where have you gone, my only little child? Where have you gone, my only little child?'”

    “That’s the way it is, householder. That’s the way it is — for sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair are born from one who is dear, come springing from one who is dear.””

    From “Piyajatika Sutta”, trans. Ven. Thanissaro http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.087.than.html

    Beware false Dhamma, even in monasteries. It might sound nice, seem very lovely, but it will never lead anywhere good. True Dhamma doesn’t always seem appealing, but its results are the real deal.

    Similarly, if there’s a voice in your head telling you to meditate more and more, to do your duties better and better, don’t be so rude as to tell it to “Buzz off.” It’s a true kalyanamitta, an inner teacher, and you should listen to it, nourish it and treasure it, lest it give up on you entirely and leave you high-and-dry. Follow it, and you could put an end to suffering; neglect it, and you’ll stay tied to birth, aging and death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress and despair for who-knows-how-long.

    With metta.

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