Dear Still Water Friends,
In the Mahayana tradition of mindfulness practice Bodhisattvas are idealized human beings who have fully committed themselves to the path of compassion and love. Each of the four great Bodhisattvas symbolizes an important aspect of the path: Avalokiteshvara represents compassion; Manjushri, wisdom; Samantabhadra, service; and Kshitigarbha, the vow to save all beings.
In the ceremony in which we invoke the Bodhisattvas Samantabhadra, we read these words of Thich Nhat Hanh:
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.
This Thursday, after our meditation period, we will share our experience with “practicing joy on the path of service.” Our sharings will be enriched through the participation of a special guest, Haile Gebregziabher. Haile is the Director of Operations at Shepherd’s Table, a resource center for people without homes and for others in need. I and other Still Water practitioners who have volunteered at Shepherd’s Table have often been inspired by the way Haile and other Shepherd’s Table staff interact with clients. There seems to be deep caring and respect along with clarity about the behavioral boundaries that protect clients and staff. In the paragraphs below Haile recounts some of his experiences at Shepherd’s Table that have challenged and changed him.
I began volunteering at Shepherd’s table in 2005. In 2009 I was offered the position of Director of Operations. I have to admit that when I started volunteering at Shepherd’s Table I held many of the common stereotypes about people who did not have a place to call home: that they were violent, lazy, and abusers of drugs and alcohol. Now my view is totally different. I have learned to relate to each client as an individual person. Each of their stories is unique. I have learned that being homeless is something that can happen to anyone. It is not always a choice.
Most of the people on the street don’t have anyone they can trust or rely on. They have no one. When they come to Shepherd’s Table, our intent is to treat them with dignity. We try to make them understand that they matter. We would like to change their view that no one cares or worries about them, no one is willing to listen to the problems they have in life. Although we offer many types of concrete services, just to let our clients know that someone cares may be the most important thing that we offer.
When I started my journey as a volunteer 10 years ago I did not know it would be my vocation in life. I did it simply because I thought it was the right thing to do, the Christian thing to do. I received much more from my work at Shepherd’s Table than I expected. I have been humbled, transformed, and spiritually uplifted. I have learned how beautiful it is to have a purpose in life. When I park my car at work each day, my last prayer is to be given the wisdom to recognize the most destitute person among those I may encounter, so that I offer help to him or her.
You are invited to join us this Thursday. In our Dharma sharing we will begin by exploring what it is that nourishes (or inhibits) the capacity in each of us to practice joy on the path of service.
Two related readings — The Prayer of St. Francis, and Finding Our Way by Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj — are below.
Information about Shepherd’s Table is on their website: http://shepherdstable.org. Still Water volunteers assist at Shepherd’s Table on Wednesday morning, for the Clothes Closet, and on the fourth and fifth Sunday of each month, for the brunch service. If you are interested in volunteering with Still Water, please send an email to info@StillWaterMPC.org.
The Peace Prayer of St Francis
(In the spirit of St Francis, but believed to have been written by an anonymous French cleric in 1912.)
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Finding Our Way
From I am That: Dialogues of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
Maharaj: You must find your own way. Unless you find it yourself it will not be your own way and will take you nowhere. Earnestly live your truth as you have found it — act on the little you have understood. It is earnestness that will take you through, not cleverness — your own or another’s.
Questioner: I am afraid of mistakes. So many things I tried — nothing came out of them.
M: You gave too little of yourself, you were merely curious, not earnest.
Q: I don’t know any better.
M: At least that much you know. Knowing them to be superficial, give no value to your experiences, forget them as soon as they are over. Live a clean, selfless life, that is all.
Q: Is morality so important?
M: Don’t cheat, don’t hurt — is it not important? Above all you need inner peace — which demands harmony between the inner and the outer. Do what you believe in and believe in what you do. All else is a waste of energy and time.