Updated: Oct 5
On this day many centuries ago, a tsunami washed away the building that this guy Amida was housed in. The monks never built him another, and all his gold leaf came off. Being Buddha, he took it really well and sits there still. He never needed gold to be beautiful anyway.
771 years old, he is, The Great Buddha of Kamakura.
For the next month or so, he will be a kind of neighbour of mine, as I'm staying again with my Permaculture sister Remi, in her radiantly sattvic home and cafe. (Sattvic, what's that? More than just food. Look it up. It's worth it).
Amida Buddha is the focus of a rather wonderful sect of Buddhism, 1000 years old, called Pure Land Buddhism.* If you are a follower of this sect, the main thing you have to do is throughout the day, remember to be in the mindful presence of Amida.
Contemplate his face.
Chant his name.
Then wait for the peaceful radiance of who he is to become part of who you are.
Now if you are more scientific than religious, there is a reason I think you'll like this practice, and that reason is this: mirror neurons.
Mirror neurones are a hugely underappreciated source of power and calm. Being aware of them, we can instantly change our mental state and the mental state of the people around us. So use them wisely. Mirror neurons evolved as a survival strategy, probably before speech: We feel in our bodies what we see on the faces of others. If you are feeling elated or despondent we will know it because just by looking at your face, we feel in our bodies what you are feeling.
Try it. Look at that gorgeous calm face. See this face in the tsunami, staying serene, as bits of his house swirl around him. How do you feel? See, it works.
You just did some Citizen science there.
This Pure Land sect became popular, because it started at a terrible time, a time of uprisings and no choice and general human bad behaviour. You didn't have to be rich or male or accomplished or even a virtuous person to have Amida shine his light on you and do his work in your spirit, so they say. The more you recognize yourself as a foolish clod (literal translation), someone who will always struggle with unfixable imperfections, the more joy you can feel that Amida wants to light you up with who he is.
Words to Chant
Here are the words in Japanese:
"Namo Amida Bu'
It translates roughly as 'Adoration to Amida Buddha!' or 'I take refuge in Amida Buddha'! Sing it to yourself or out loud, a few times over, in your Place of Uplift. If you adapt the chant and make it more meaningful to you, I'd love to hear.
Stories on Your Sacred Space, Place of Grace
These days my sister (real one) and I are collecting stories on how we can set up little moments in our home and daily life, where we can side-step our habitual self, and go cosmic. Ways to be given the power to do the things we can't usually do. If you have a story of a humble sacred space you put together at home, or a practice that gets you going, one that would work for non-religious people too, we would love to hear from you.
'Though the problems of he world are increasingly complex, the solutions are embarrassingly simple' - Bill Mollison