It was in the summer and autumn of 1989 that we visited Assisi. We stopped off at Santa Maria degli Angeli and visited the basilica there which is built around where Saint Francis died. From there we walked up to the walled city of Assisi looming above us.
It seemed to be a place totally given over to tourists where the main street was filled with shops and hardly a person we saw looked local. My story starts with our visit to the small church of Saint John. I was captivated by the peacefulness and looked lovingly at the beautiful plain wooden beams and ceiling joists. We walked out and entered a walled garden where I noticed a couple off to my right. We turned left and then right along a wall toward the hillside. Of a sudden, I noticed a large vase of plants. They were not flowers nor were there any blossoms or any especially beautiful distinguishing features. Yet, I was overcome with love for these plants. I focused on them as we approached and I touched them lovingly. My feelings were so strong and I was amazed and somewhat shocked by the strength of my emotion for such an ordinary, neglected pot of what I would have called weeds. How could weeds draw me and evoke such loving feelings?
As I looked up and over to the right, It came to me that I would build a church and my church would be a garden. This garden has not yet been manifest but I have plans for it.
Over the last 25 years, I have often remembered the sights and feelings around that afternoon at Assisi.
‘The sea and sky are our shrine room.
The natural elements are our meditation.’
Lifted from this website: http://arobuddhism.org/
I am a “Friend” of a group of Buddhists who work within the Vajrayana Buddhist tradition which in turn falls within the Nyingma tradition of Buddhism, the oldest of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism. The Lamas and ordained teachers are Westerners and The Aro teachers are not monks or nuns. I’ll leave other interesting background to those are interested. The website cited above is an interesting and rather complete source of the essence and practice of Aro Buddhism.
The purpose of this post was not only to introduce Aro, but to reveal the first words on the home page copied above. This quote reminds me of my thoughts and writings on the subject of Earthen Spirituality. I quite happily admit that it is, to me, the alpha and omega of all that I have been trying to express over the last couple of years about an Earthen Spirituality, a spirituality that honours our beautiful and bountiful, living, loving planet Earth.
On a more personal note – after all this is a personal blog! – the local Sangha, forgive me if I am using the word incorrectly, appears to be somewhat centred around Bristol whilst Lamas, teachers, apprentices, and Friends live mainly in the Southwest of England and Wales, near my home in Devon.
A few years ago, I became acquainted with a married pair of Aro ordained teachers who have recently become Lamas. They introduced and made me aware of a local project and appeal aimed at establishing a retreat centre which I expect will be located somewhere in the Southwest or Wales. It is named Drala Jong.
Years ago, it came to me that I wished to establish a garden. In that moment, I thought it might be a “church.” Since then, it has emerged that it would be a garden dedicated to the memory of a wonderful spiritual teacher – Jean Klein. Although Jean was not a Buddhist, my reading of the insights from Aro reminded me of what I had learned from Jean and his teachings along the lines of Advaita Vedanta.
Having asked my friends if they thought the retreat centre might be open hosting the garden, I was thrilled to find that my wish could be granted. I envision a small rounded area with flowering bushes and trees, a few large stones and a bench with a small plaque containing a quote from Jean and his name inscribed. It would be a place for quiet reflection and meditation.
Recently there has been renewed energy placed on fundraising for Drala Jong. Jong means meadow and there is no direct translation for the word drala. According to Ngak’chang Rinpoche, as I understand it, Drala Jong is the ‘Sparkling Meadow of Primal Iridescence’. Rinpoche says: …drala relates to the fact that the world is not inanimate, insensate, or uncommunicative. Drala is the living ambience of the world in terms of the personality of a place.” Here again, I am reminded of what Earthen Spirituality means to me.
Synchronicity is an amazing experience for many including myself. When I was granted permission to establish the garden, I had no idea what Drala Jong meant and had not developed my understanding and interest in Earthen Spirituality. I am convinced that both Drala Jong and the little garden are both on a path with heart.
An interview with Ngak’chang Rinpoche
An early clear blue sky was rapidly gathering clouds Sunday as I finished breakfast and the sweet memory of the opening to Darrol Barry’s Lullaby for Lisa crept quietly into my thinking space. Ah yes, those four simple but hauntingly beautiful first four bars that I share with the horns almost brings me undone. They would be a prayer if I was a praying person. How can the simplicity of a quaver and a dotted minim of the same note moving up and then down the scale within four bars invoke such pleasant feelings? Let us ponder this. Traditionally some would call it an aesthetic sense. However, this leaves me cold and unsatisfied. I tried once to glean the essence of the area of philosophy called Aesthetics and got absolutely nowhere. I’ll take the blame but I need to better understand not only what happens to my body/mind during these experiences but how they tie in with being an Earthling – from the perspective of being within the folds so to speak of Gaia. Perhaps this is just Gaia’s energy, the energy that is always available and permeates through and all around us. Perhaps what we call special isn’t really special at all but just what we may have opened to at that particular time. I’m reminded of those who say that no one thing is more sacred than any other. If one thing is sacred than all of “it” is sacred. Surely separating the sacred from the mundane is a mindset that has shown its limiting colours and needs rethinking or re-feeling into. Surely our body/mind is always tuned to Gaia’s energy or perhaps I must say that since we are Gaia’s energy we might benefit from becoming more aware and sensitive to that part of ourselves. Any thoughts along these lines? Please share them.