21 August, 2013

When Dhamma is not Entertainment

When I first jumped off the complaining bus, and arrived at a local buddhist temple, I was captivated by the real job-holding dhamma teacher. It was a welcome change to hear something that before this time was all preconceived ideas. This dhamma teacher was normal, had kids and a wife and all the other assorted problems attached. How could I, as a single person(at that time), not get some great examples of where dhamma fits in daily life? Laughing while learning, being at first entertained. He led me and the sangha in meditation, then using simple analogy to weave dhamma and life's stuff that always seem to be directed at you. A quick intro, I won the pot 'o gold with a medical malpractice brain injury from a Dr. that exhausted his insurance, unbeknownst to me...leaving me disabled and dealing with questionable lawyers for 4 years.

Back to my temple, this male teacher taught one night a week, and slowly I graduated to two nights exposing me the other teachers talks. One suggested that this sangha is yours, and I began to help with set-up and clean-up. I met a few fellow sangha members, and each one had their own story and insights. Luckily, some were more experienced and helped me to dive deeper in simple understanding while working with them and others.

Then a new female teacher appeared, transferred from the East coast, who was a charming Brit, with a unique story of telling her Mom at a 3 that she would doing this, from a previous life experience. She was a simple, yet profound teacher, and one teaching I just knew her unspoken intention was to make dhamma clear to me. Perhaps, it might have been good timing or finally meditation was giving me small signs of awareness before unknown to me that prompted me to believe this, but “It” was working. She had a great personality, and a funny dhamma teaching husband to boot and both were liked by all. I began to more engaged in pujas, and longer weekend events there and away. And I was helping more around the temple, eventually helping to paint the entire building from her inspiration. I became friendly with an older member of the sangha, who's subtle teaching based on interest in my progress worked wonders in the after hours. We worked along each other setting up and taking down, and although 20 years older than I was tireless with her dedication to the practical aspects of dhamma. She was retired marriage counselor, so I think she used her wisdom from her practice on me.

In the first year of the "famous and loved" dhamma teacher appearance, she had to go to another temple far way to do her wonder work in the winter season for another temple. I didn't know in advance, so it was news to me. The temple would use new teachers, sometimes a bit green, until we found a new
 more seasoned dhamma teacher to fill in. I could sense my  disappointment, and low and behold, my comparing mind came in for a landing. After a couple of Tuesday nights, I continued my commitment to dhamma and helping out, but was still trying to judge the substitute teachers. When the older sangha member used to drive me home, I would talk with her, once complaining about the other subs and she got quiet, all while maintaining her smile. It then dawned on me that I was caught up in craving and aversion, because like most of us change is not a simple on-off switch. Sometimes, we need to steep in our errors, but that evening ride's talk helped. Dhamma was working it's little miracle with her subtle response, and she knew how to start the fire.

Growing from what is first perceived as an aversive, a teacher who might not be as entertaining as the one you like, and just watching the mind in the reactive state is dhamma in action. You can support the sangha instead of walking out because you are not satisfied.  One never knows if the new teacher will say something that will guide you further on the path. This simple awareness helped me grow tremendously with a little help from that older sangha member and by watching the mind in meditations. It made me realize Dhamma is not entertainment, it can be where you can grow in wisdom. I know now, that it was my first real sign that I was on the right path, many years ago and that awakening is a process of learning, and relearning until it becomes second nature.

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