photo credit Sai Ram
Or, the passing of flames itself is the Buddha passing, is Buddha activity, the dharma wheel turning.
Friends who practiced with me or wished to practice with me at Karuna Center, in Monchique, Algarve, and to all other friends, this is what the fires have left of our retreat venue in Portugal.
The image is a depiction of the main medititation hall after wildfires swept through the Serra de Monchique in the early days of August soon after we left.
We were there just a few days ago for our summer sesshin before wildfires passed by which gives the scene of desolation captured here a sense of irreality especially to those of us who were present there before the devastation struck.
But then that is what Annica, impermanence, is about; it feels unreal, which is why we cannot see it or avoid seeing it in the everyday, whenever we can. Until it strikes in some significant way and there is no turning away.
But for unreal as it may be it is that which reality is made of; constant, unremitting change.There is no concern whether this makes us happy or not, it does not serve any particular purpose at all, it is the natural unfolding and happening of change.
You were sitting here meditating peacefully one day, the next day flames sweep along and reduce everything to ashes. But the walls that were standing there were no more real than the ashes and ruins that replaced them and everything else that stood inside or outside of them.
The golden Buddha statue adorning magnificiantly the alter to which thousands of pilgrims, meditators and practionners bowed to, burnt incense, prostrated and addressed sincere prayers, respects and vows for the past twenty years, was the first to burn.
The Buddha could not save itself from the onslought of flames for what passed in the flames was itself Buddha.
In the Diamond Sutra the Buddha says: Thus shall ye think of this fleeting world: A star at dawn, a bubble in a stream; A flash of lightning in a summer cloud; A flickering lamp, a phantom, and a dream.
In the Tempest we read Prospero say the following:
Our revels now are ended. These our actors, As I foretold you, were all spirits and Are melted into air, into thin air: And, like the baseless fabric of this vision, The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces, The solemn temples, the great globe itself, Ye all which it inherit, shall dissolve And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff As dreams are made on, and our little life Is rounded with a sleep.
Now sitting still, now burning, now reduced to ashes, it is from this round of sleep that Buddha's flames work to awaken us.