Refuge in the Storm

            This is a guest column from Kittisaro, with his permission to re-post here:

Thanissara and I send you our love and blessings in these challenging times. For me, right now, developing refuge is vitally important. I find great solace in remembering the teachings of the Buddha, that there is a trustworthy refuge always available – ever beckoning and inviting – a timeless abiding of safety that nurtures and guides us home.

We easily forget – especially in times of crisis, anxiety, and panic – that the Buddha is always here and now. We align with the Blessed One, when we mindfully reflect this is how it is. The essential Buddha – knowing, awareness, inner listening – consciously connects with the conditions that are arising in our body and mind. Whatever you are experiencing, don’t forget the refuge.

Finding refuge in Buddha Dhamma means patiently knowing the way things are, moment to moment – knowing the pain, anxiety and confusion as it is. When we do that, steadiness arises in the heart, from awareness, not from conditions being a certain way. This is our path. This is our practice. Conditions and circumstances, by their very nature, are unreliable and cannot satisfy us. Ajahn Chah regularly reminded us of this eternal truth: If you look for certainty in that which is uncertain, you are bound to suffer.

This is not an easy truth when we feel our whole world is falling apart. Remembering good friends, Sangha, can help a lot. That’s why Sangha is the third jewel of the refuge, and is given so much importance by the Buddha. Those who set a kind, generous, and reflective example help reassure, encourage, and align us with these truths. These perilous times call for us to widen our sense of family to include all beings, to hold all, especially those suffering from the impact of COVID-19, in our hearts and prayers with love and compassion. May all beings be free from suffering.

The internal essence of Sangha is remembering again and again the path of practice, however lost and disoriented we get, so that we are guided by Dharma, by wisdom and compassion. When we are overwhelmed and succumb to the hungry ghosts of the heart, everything feels futile. This is the time to find, cultivate, and establish our sacred refuge, breath by breath, especially in the midst of the multitudes of uncertainties catalyzed by this corona pandemic.

Now it is critically important to keep the refuge alive, so we’re not swept away by the intensity of what is happening around us. Let’s not dwell in fear and overwhelm, but rather hold the heart steady in faith, trusting our refuge in the face of sickness, uncertainty and confusion.

Thanissara and I are at Dharmagiri, and, like many of you, in a period of lockdown. All domestic and international flights in South Africa have been cancelled and everyone is ordered to stay at home – except for essential activities – to slow and contain the spread of the pandemic here. We don’t know when we will be able to return to our home in Sebastopol.

Meanwhile, I’m holding the sacred name of Kuan Yin – Namo Kuan Shr Yin Pu Sa. I return to the One who Listens at Ease to the Sounds of the World – mindfully, patiently and benevolently allowing the inner resonance of the name to mingle with all the feelings, moods, sensations and uncertainties of the moment, remembering to trust in the listening, the refuge, the place of safety that is the true heart.

We are grateful to be on this beautiful land with our Dharmagiri resident sangha – Manzi, Simone, Bongari, and ourselves, along with the eagles and vultures, jackals, and baboons, antelope, snakes, field mice, frogs, insects, and the multitude of creatures we share this good earth with.

We are practicing being kind to ourselves and each other, being mindful of caring for each other, deepening our conversations and reflections around our new reality, chanting and meditating every day, regularly sharing appreciation and blessings with all beings, and remembering the refuge – the present, aware, pure heart, where all things find their home.

May you stay safe and well. May all beings be freed from suffering.




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