Dear Still Water Friends,
I talked last week with a friend who was searching for a better way to respond to the suffering of her siblings. The siblings’ unhappiness was deeply rooted. They resented that their lives had not turned out the way that they had wanted. They envied their sister, and they were convinced that her better life had come at the cost of their suffering. Despite my friends effort’s to assist and encourage her siblings, their suffering continued. She felt ineffectual and burdened by her siblings’ blame and suffering. After more sharing, our conversation turned to ways she could express the care and concern she had for her siblings without getting tangled in their judgments and expectations.
Later I realized that despite our different outer stories, my friend, her siblings, and I were all struggling with the same core issue. It was also the abiding question of the young prince Gautama, who later became the Buddha: How do we find peace and joy in the midst of an imperfect and suffering world?
The Mahayana Buddhist tradition advises that we find peace and joy by embracing the suffering that we ourselves experience and also the suffering that is experienced by other humans, by other species, and by the Earth. We hold the suffering gently, with a calm and expansive mind, and we act with great care and love to alleviate it, as far as we are able. The Bodhisattvas, the great beings, are the humans who have learned to do this.
In the Plum Village tradition we have the practice of touching the earth and invoking the name and qualities of the four great Bodhisattvas:
Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of great compassion,
Manjushri, the Bodhisattva of great wisdom,
Samantabhadra, the Bodhisattva of great actions, and
Kshitigarbha, the Bodhisattva of great aspirations.
We invoke the Bodhisattvas so that we may learn from them and so that the Bodhisattva seeds in each of us may be nourished.
You are invited to join us this Thursday evening. After our meditation period, we will Invoke the Bodhisattvas’ Names and reflect on our endeavors to create peace and joy in the midst of our imperfect and suffering world.
The words with which we Invoke the Bodhisattvas’ Names are below. I hope you will join us in body or in spirit.
Going to the Blue Cliff Retreat, Oct 5th to 10th? Still Water has set up a Ride Share Board for Washington area practitioners interested in driving together. If you would like to offer or request a ride, send an email to info@StillWaterMPC.org and we will send you the link.
Invoking the Bodhisattvas’ Names
We invoke your name, Avalokiteshvara. We aspire to learn your way of listening in order to help relieve the suffering in the world. You know how to listen in order to understand. We invoke your name in order to practice listening with all our attention and open-heartedness. We will sit and listen without any prejudice. We will sit and listen without judging or reacting. We will sit and listen in order to understand. We will sit and listen so attentively that we will be able to hear what the other person is saying and also what is being left unsaid. We know that just by listening deeply we already alleviate a great deal of pain and suffering in the other person.
We invoke your name, Manjushri. We aspire to learn your way, which is to be still and to look deeply into the heart of things and into the hearts of people. We will look with all our attention and open-heartedness. We will look with unprejudiced eyes. We will look without judging or reacting. We will look deeply so that we will be able to see and understand the roots of suffering, through the impermanent and selfless nature of all that is. We will practice your way of using the sword of understanding to cut through the bonds of suffering, thus freeing ourselves and other species.
We invoke your name, Samantabhadra. We aspire to practice your vow to act with the eyes and heart of compassion, to bring joy to one person in the morning and to ease the pain of one person in the afternoon. We know that the happiness of others is our own happiness, and we aspire to practice joy on the path of service. We know that every word, every look, every action, and every smile can bring happiness to others. We know that if we practice wholeheartedly, we ourselves may become an inexhaustible source of peace and joy for our loved ones and for all species.
We invoke your name, Kshitigarbha. We aspire to learn your way of being present where there is darkness, suffering, oppression and despair, so we can bring light, hope, relief, and liberation to those places. We are determined not to forget about or abandon those in desperate situations. We will do our best to establish contact with those who cannot find a way out of their suffering, those whose cries for help, justice, equality, and human rights are not being heard. We know that hell can be found in many places on Earth. We will do our best not to contribute to creating more hells on Earth, and to help transform the hells that already exist. We will practice in order to realize the qualities of perseverance and stability, so that, like the Earth, we can always be supportive and faithful to those in need.