Where should we rest our eyes?

Where should we rest our eyes? October 21, 2017

Golden Buddha new 201015My heart was banging. It was Thursday evening and I was preparing to do a live broadcast of a Buddhist service on Facebook. I run several services a week at the temple and don’t get any nerves at all- the last time I felt this anxious, I was getting ready to speak to a hundred people.

Partly it was because lots of people had expressed interested in attending, some of them from other schools of Pureland Buddhism – what would they think of me and my approach? Partly it was because there is something different about broadcasting out to the world, not knowing who might be watching and what their reactions might be. I felt worried about sounding like an idiot or ‘getting it wrong’. I felt vulnerable.

I was sat on the floor behind my desk, my computer in front of me, and my bookcase shrine behind me. There were ten minutes before I ‘went live’. I tried to calm myself down, telling myself that I’d done this hundreds of times before, but nothing was working.

I realised that I was staring straight at my own face, ‘reflected’ in the preview of the live video. I fiddled with my hair, which was getting too long and which poked up at the back. Did I have time to go and sort it out? I looked at the fear in my eyes, and generally feeling preoccupied with myself.

I remembered what I’d been training myself to do – to look instead into the eye of the camera, and imagine that I was looking into the eyes of the people who’d be watching and practising with me. This helped. I started to think about what they might need – who would they be? How could I explain the nembutsu to beginners in a way that made sense? What could I share about my own experience that would help them?

Then I noticed my golden Buddha. He was also on the screen, above me and to my left. He sat calmly and peacefully, perfectly grounded. Here was the best place to rest my eyes. I began to absorb his calm, and see myself as a tiny part of a much bigger picture. I thought about my Dharma talk as stepping out of the way and letting the Buddha speak through me. He knew better than I did what was needed.

3… 2… 1… I went live. Several friendly faces said ‘hello’ in the comments screen in the first few seconds. I started by sitting quietly, happy to be sitting with the Buddha, and happy to be sharing this practice with old friends and new. I rang the singing bowl three times, and then shared the story I’ve shared here for my Dharma talk. When we chanted together – all of us in different places in the world, but joined together by our voices – I had a real sense of the sacred space that had been created.

The cloud of light is unhindered, like open sky;
There is nothing that impedes it.
Every being is nurtured by this light,
So take refuge in Amida, the one beyond conception.

Jōdo Wasan 6

Amida Buddha’s light is infinite. It reached through my screen and into the houses of my virtual congregation. It nurtured those sitting with me, and gave them a taste of refuge. When we take our eyes off ourselves and rest them on the Buddha, wonderful things happen. Namo Amida Bu.


Photo by Satya



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