This morning we said goodbye to a resident who is going back to the “real world.” You don’t get to just turn in your keys and drive away once you’ve entered the temple. There’s a ritual of farewell, a bow made to everyone, while they all bow back. A public acknowledgement that you opened your mind and heart to the way, that you practiced and worked here. In short, that you were seen, and that you mattered.
When someone leaves the temple abruptly, it’s like an amputation. The part is gone, but the pain remains. Abandonment issues fester in the unsaid goodbye, in the belief that someone (either the leaver or the stayer, or both) wasn’t good enough to deserve attention and commitment. Resentment and anger flare unexpectedly, long after the parting.
The Surangama Sutra asks us to “resolve never to abandon anyone.” So, a leaving is serious business. The one leaving is reminded that they “return to the marketplace with gift-bestowing hands,” the capacity to be generous in the face of breathtaking greed. They also “go with the deep gratitude and best wishes of us all.” Both of these are, of course, just sneaky ways of saying, “You take us with you, and we stay with you.”
Eijun-roshi, the abiding abbess of Green Gulch Farm, says that a friend is someone who doesn’t turn away. To leave and yet not turn away is an act of inclusion, a willingness to expand our heart beyond our address, a realization that sangha is not a place.