Three words stood out while I was reciting the Lotus Sutra: Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, the Three Jewels.
Buddha, who reached the end of the Enlightenment Path, transmits the Teachings through the Dharma. Guided by both the spiritual world and the Awakened, we can experiment and verify these Teachings in the midst of the Sangha, the gathering of all the practitioners, elders and companions alike. I want to share this with you because it is what I have been experimenting for the past few months and even more so over the past few weeks.
I am a seasoned practitioner. I have chanted the Sutra thousands of times and then my chanting dwindled and came to a halt. But I recently heard from my elders of the necessity to concentrate on my practice. I must admit, I find it hard to concentrate. Last spring, I started a 21-day practice which consists in chanting the Sutra every day for 21 days. A real challenge for me. I started it in order to be enlightened about a difficult relationship. I did not want to let my head nor my ego rule, nor to act in an ordinary way. It was initially a personal request but two days later I met with one of my companions in practice and I noticed the extent of her suffering, suffering that I realised was linked to what I had been bearing, with what I was beginning to see thanks to my practice. So, for the first time, I felt in my heart that I needed to support her along the journey to the resolution of her suffering. I felt very strongly that “With companions, we have to work through the issue till the end, until the issue has been cleansed, resolved, purified. Such is our engagement as practice elders.” During the same time period I heard my younger son say “I am not doing what I have to do.” It was so unexpected coming from him and I wondered “Am I doing what I have to do in my life and in my practice?”. I saw how caught up he was with his desires, with the very ordinary aspects of his life. I kept this information to myself and in the summer, I did three 21-day practices one after the other and realised it was working: unexpected realities appeared, all linked to letting go and to doing what I had to do.
September 9th, Paris, assault: 7 people were violently attacked. The first one was my elder son: very, very serious head trauma, emergency hospitalisation.
At the hospital, while my son was undergoing surgery, I became aware right away that, if this was happening, it was linked to me, there was a deep meaning behind that. When you practise, you hear that whatever happens in your life, it is your world, it is linked to you. So, in the middle of the night I texted the whole lineage of my elders. “Here is what is going on. What deep meaning might it have? How can I adjust my mind and my practice?”
What happened then was quite extraordinary. I believe I was heard by the spiritual world which gave me wonderful presents: it heard my genuine wish to be able to solve the deep causes of these circumstances. When I talked to my elders, I became aware that violence had taken other aspects in my family. I asked myself “What is there to see? Why does that kind of violence appear?”. But, that time, I did not let my brain work. I laid the matter on my altar and asked “What do I have to see? Which conceptions are at the origin of these situations?”. It became very clear to me that a great part of this violence was connected to all the ideas, conceptions, desires and illusions, to everything that makes us ordinary human beings. That is what has created wars, tumultuous relationships, interpersonal conflicts… And I thought of my grand-father who had died at war at an early age, and at the impact it still has on my family today.
I felt the deep wish to be able to purify that, even if I did not know how.
For about ten days, I experienced a very strange state. I, who had chanted thousands of sutras, quite often directing my spirit on my practice before I started chanting… and then thinking about my shopping list, suddenly realised I was reading it from beginning to end feeling “Well! It is unbelievable! It is the instruction manual to educate one’s heart and spirit. There is nothing else to do but follow what is written. One doesn’t need to do anything else.”
My consciousness too was quite different: for example, I was extremely and clearly aware of others. My children’s mother, who lives in the country, came immediately after the aggression. I put her up at my place and for me, it was obvious that I was giving her a set of keys and that she was staying there and that together we were going to look after our sons. And then it hit me that she had lived in that flat with me for ten years and that, as she had been away for a number of years, it was probably quite difficult for her to find herself there again. And at the same time, I realized I would never have been aware of that before. This new way of considering her was quite surprising. I then thought of her partner in life: “What about your sweetheart? What state is he in?” “He is certainly devastated” “Why doesn’t he come?” “He doesn’t dare.” ”Well, tell him to come.” He did come with his daughter and we found ourselves together as a family. And we were happy to have dinner together after the visits at the hospital. Something soft emanated from me, a gentleness for people, devoid of any judgement. It was utterly surprising. I would see people in the street and think “They are on earth to transform themselves. It’s sad, they don’t even know it.” And it is absolutely true, we are here to transform ourselves thanks to the Teachings.
Concerning my son, I also became conscious that in the end reality was at work, a far broader reality than what I could grasp. You can read it in the Sutra, at the end of chapter 2: “Only the Buddhas can completely fathom the Ultimate Reality of every existing thing – because all things have: their characteristics, their nature, their substance, their potential, their functions, their causes, their conditions, their effects, their consequences, and their perfect coherence.” As an ordinary human being, I could see that this was out of my reach.
I was also quite surprised to realise that I did not feel any hatred towards the perpetrator. Some people around me were experiencing very strong feelings, but there was no hatred on my part. I thanked the spiritual world for not being trapped there. My energy was put elsewhere.
And then, action. The act of transmitting. At that time, I was straightforward. For instance, I was chanting the Sutra, the telephone would ring and I would stop my reading to pick up the phone. “What state are you in? Here is what is happening. Here is what I am practising at the moment. You are welcome to come and see.” It was like that constantly: it was easy to act, to do what needed to be done in the field of the practice… To do what needed to be done. Three new members are here with me at the seminar today. This has not happened to me in years. While I was chanting the Sutra in my bedroom in front of my small altar with one of my companions, I suddenly remembered I had a wonderful altar handcrafted by one of my friends. But in my head I had decided I needed to finish preparing it before I could use it. I told myself: That’s stupid! You have the best ever altar next door and here you are just a dwarf”. In the wake of that realisation, we cleaned, prepared and installed the new altar and, as I spoke out the salutations, I felt: “This altar is worth welcoming at least 50 people in this room with you. There we go. Let’s do it!”
As my son was in a coma, I was privileged to hear from the mouth of various people who practise here, that at that very time he was choosing to come back or not and that whatever happened, it would be good for him. I was invited not to hold on to my emotions, to my desires, but to accept a reality broader than the one I could comprehend, so that he would feel neither my desires nor my expectations and that he would be able to make his own choice. And from this large inner washing-machine rose a field of acceptance and openness. I can very clearly perceive today the meaning of the phrase: “to let oneself be guided by the spiritual world”. I often had the illusion, as I was chanting the Sutra in front of my altar, that I was asking for guidance. But then, I would go back to my sofa and wait for someone to ring at my door. This is not what practice is all about. It is a path, and walking that path means being on the move. It is because I am walking the path, that the spiritual world will show me shortcuts, highways, small paths behind the bushes, and will open up opportunities that do not appear if I remain seated on my sofa. This is what I am experiencing and what I want to transmit.