New-moon Update - May 2020
Today, Thursday 21st, is the New Moon day for the month of May, 2020. The next uposatha day will be the Full Moon which falls on Friday 5th June. As mentioned last Full Moon, from now on these news updates will be emailed out coinciding with the New Moon days. The Dhammapada Reflection will continue, as usual, to be emailed out on the Full Moon days.
Hopefully you are all managing OK. Still the message of uncertainty is blaring loudly at us. Apparently, on the other side of the planet in New Zealand, they are relaxing restrictions somewhat, but that doesn't immediately do away with feelings of fear and anxiety. Here on Harnham Hill we are so far being very cautious about relaxing any restrictions. When we do, there will be a notice on our announcements page.
Once again I wish to express sincere appreciation for the extraordinary care and kindness shown to us by our many friends and supporters during these difficult times. Rest assured we are all well fed; even the birds have been receiving incredibly generous offerings.
A few days ago I received a call from Luang Por Sumedho in Thailand. Some of you are probably aware that he had been planning to be at Amaravati this month leading a retreat and then staying on for the vassa. Obviously that is not going to happen now, so he has been calling around our various monasteries to check in and see how everyone is doing. Other than an ongoing issue he has with macular degeneration, he is well. He explained to me that he is having to learn to walk with a cane these days, but since he is to be 86 in a few weeks time that isn't surprising. We spoke about the benefits of working on cultivating contentment. He commented on the fact that it is work, and if we don't do our work then we risk the restlessness of the physical body taking us over.
Besides contemplating the important message of uncertainty, during this time many people have been pondering on what other lessons they might usefully learn. Old age is inevitable, but do we prepare ourselves for that inevitability or are we shocked when it hits us. It matters whether or not we are prepared. Up until a few decades ago most of humanity lived their lives expecting that they would have to face challenges such as old age, famine, war, plague and petulance. As has probably been commented on by others, it is only in very recent history that we have managed to indulge in the notion that life keeps getting better all the time.
In the talk I gave last Saturday called, Am I Destined To Feel Guilty Forever, I mentioned the benefits of intentionally retraining ourselves so that we are not overly surprised by the inevitable. That isn't to suggest we adopt a pessimistic approach, to do so is truly regrettable, it means that when we heed the teachings of the Buddha we make an effort to remember and reflect on the reality of this existence. The reality is that happiness and unhappiness come and go; success and failure come and go; gain and loss come and go; honour and insignificance come and go. We are all blown around by the 8 worldly winds and what matters is whether we can withstand those forces or are we blown over by them. Considering these aspects of reality is to cultivate the right kind of strength so we have a sense of inner refuge.
In the Dhammapada verse 329 says,
a moment at a time,
the wise remove their own impurities
as a goldsmith removes the dross.
When we make the effort to remove the dross of unawareness, we boost our spiritual immune system so that when we are assailed by adversity we are better prepared for it. So let's all pay attention to what the Buddha taught and avoid falling into heedlessness.
Wishing that all beings be well in all ways.
Luang Por Munindo