We’ve said goodbye so many times recently – memorials for those who have died, departure ceremonies for students moving out of Zen Center, numerous work-meeting farewells by residents going on long retreats elsewhere. And at least for the next couple of months, no one is arriving, nor being born in our community. Net loss.
Vimalakirti was able to feed and house (and find chairs for) 90 million beings. Wish we knew his secret. We are pressed to be endlessly welcoming with dwindled resources. This is not a complaint of overwork; there is genuine heart-wrench at not being able to greet, feed, sit with and thoroughly welcome all beings, as we ache to do from the very depth of our vow. “Stop” might be in our vocabulary; it isn’t in our body.
In such times, mistakes are made, despite our best intentions. Tempers flare with mis(taken)communications – or no communication at all. Arguments are perceived where, in more spacious times, a simple exchange of information or perspective would have prevailed.
And yet … practice wins out. The temple schedule happens, and pretty much everyone shows up. The power of frazzled sangha triumphs over wound-licking solitude. We may not be “bringing harmony to everyone” as our daily chant supposes, but we give it every opportunity to be true, if only for the space of a rushed bow in the hallway.
In short, we come home to each other, moment after moment. Vowing with our presence, if not our words: I will not abandon you. Is there a better translation of “saving all beings?”