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Refuge and the Bodhisattva Vow

Refuge and the Bodhisattva Vow

You have all no doubt been impacted by the recent political turbulence and shock. I don’t need to add more words to all you may have already been reading about Trump, Brexit and the worrying rise of political division, fear and polarisation, along with our planetary climate emergency.

I would like to share two very classical Buddhist resources that I find powerful in troubling times. The first is Refuge:

I take refuge in being Awake (Buddha)

I take refuge in the Way (Dharma)

I take refuge in my companions (Sangha)

Refuge in Buddha – Awake-ness is at the heart of our nature. You are conscious. You are here. Grounding our attention and action in this immediate awake-ness, relive in the light of the natural knowing that’s always present. You can experience because you are aware. Right now. To recognise and honour and cultivate this awake-ness is Buddha.

Refuge in Dharma – Right now, it’s like this. This is the way. The way things are, and the way through. To really acknowledge the way experience is, gives us the ground for finding the way through. Everything is workable. Nothing lasts. This too can be met and responded to. Take heart.

Refuge in Sangha – Listen for and turn towards those who love you. Be there for those in need. Your companions are a treasure. And most fundamentally, life itself is supporting you immeasurably. Your aliveness, your breathing and the beating of your heart is the unequivocal truth of that. To feel life’s support is to find the unshakeable ground from which we can keep on keeping on.

The other resource is the Bodhisattva vow. My own, rather freestyle version of it goes like this:

Countless are living beings

I vow to row them all to the further shore

Countless are teachings

I vow to understand them all

Countless are the poisons

I vow to purify them all

Countless are the blessings

I vow to bow my heart to them all

And though the road is endless

I vow to walk it to the very end

If we only have the first lines of each couplet, we easily feel overwhelmed and hopeless. If we only have the second lines, we feel daunted and overawed, exhausted before we begin. With both lines together, we see that everything is workable, and that I can start right here.

Possibilities are countless. My practice invites me to see how I can meet this moment, this situation, this experience, as skilfully and kindly as possible.

May all beings find true refuge. May we keep our hearts open in all conditions. May we choose the Bodhisattva way, moment by moment.

With love,