Battersea, London: Cultivating the Boundless Field

Hello Friends,

I am here in London for the upcoming Mindfulness Show event. I am also at the Doppio Coffee Wharehouse in Battersea, a district of London, sipping my cappuccino and working on a Dharma talk for an upcoming retreat at Wiston Lodge in Scotland. Here’s a couple of verses involved:

“Then the Buddha emitted a ray of light from the tuft of white hair between
his eyebrows. It illuminated all the eighteen thousand worlds in the east,
down as far as the lowest hell, Avīci, and up as high as the Akaniṣṭha Heaven.
All the sentient beings in those worlds living in the six transmigratory states
became visible from this world. The buddhas in those worlds were also seen,
and the Dharma they were teaching could be heard.”
(Lotus Sutra, Chapter 1: Burton Watson)

“The Buddha’s body fills the cosmos,
Appearing before all beings everywhere-
In all conditions, wherever sensed, reaching everywhere,
Yet always on this seat of enlightenment.

In each of the Buddha’s pores
Sit Buddhas, many as atoms in all lands,
Surrounded by masses of enlightened beings
Expounding the supreme practice of the universally good.

Buddha, sitting at rest on the enlightenment seat,
Displays in one hair oceans of fields;
The same is true of every single hair,
Thus pervading the cosmos.”
(Avatamsaka Sutra, pg. 162: Thomas Cleary)

Both these citations are from classical Mahayana texts, one of the three current branches of Buddhism, along with Theravada and Vajrayana. Pretty cosmic don’t you think? Why did I pick these two? Because the two passages depict through the writer’s literary style the boundless nature. Here the “Buddha” and “Buddhas,” in Mahayana there are more than one Buddha, is not some supernatural being. Instead, I see them representing our boundless nature, the ray of light from the Buddha’s brow, the Buddha’s body, as many as atoms in all the lands, pointing to the understanding that we are much more than we think: This is our boundless field in which we exist – no, more accurately, it is the boundless field that is our existence.

This boundless field is our unlimited human capacity, our boundless potential, a path that is so often goes unseen or unacknowledged: It is the field of our hearts and minds, the totality of our human experience of our past, present, and future. We exist in this time and space, at this present moment, which is the intersection of our lives. This present moment consists of all things present as well as all things past. All things experienced and understood in the past are here and now.  The way we thought and understood, the actions we took, the behavior that manifested, all stored within us. All these things of the past are with us today, all there as potentials in which directly and indirectly influence our experience today. It is today, through our hearts and minds, however influenced, be it wholesome or unwholesome, that shape our future present moments.

There are things in this life we have no influence over whatsoever. There are things in this life that we have some influence over. There are also some things in this life we have direct influence over. It is at this intersection of our boundless field that we do have a great deal of influence over. We have to capacity to practice in such a way to develop clarity and wisdom, which are also part of the boundless field. With clarity and wisdom we are able to sow wholesome seeds and unroot the unwholesome seeds of the field. Not only does this affect our life in this moment but it affects the way we experience the future, the later present moments. It is at this intersection of the present moment we cultivate the boundless field, if we so choose.

Until next time – phap vu

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