We had a lovely informal sharing last night. We sat around in the loft space above the kitchen and talked about all the new developments in Amida, the project in India, where we are, or where we feel we are on the path, or not on the path and I gave a quick update on all the changes that we've seen back at the Buddhist House. The group consists of three men and three women. We can divide the group up another way, five school members and one lay resident. And again, we can look at it another way, one Dutch, two Canadians, and three English. And yet again, we could say that there are three pensioners and three non-pensioners. However, we label ourselves we are all foolish beings and we make up the community at Amida France. I'm reading Utopian Dreams: In search of a good life by Tobias Jones which is a book about his exploration/pilgrimage to different communities in the UK and Italy. He started this quest because he couldn't continue living the way that he was and needed to step outside of the 'real world' in order to understand the world better. He writes 'In an ideal community, the onus for you to take responsibilty for other people is borne out of a thankfulness that someone, here, has taken responsibilty for you. It's symbiotic, joyous because your relationship is based on love. In contemporary Western society, however, the instinctive mood is vindictiveness born out of years of being told one is a victim. Complaint becomes knee-jerk, litigation second nature. We can be spiteful to people because we'll probably never see them again. Reading this has put me in a reflective mood and as I sit here writing I realise that I am reflecting on the three questions that we do every morning in our service during our Nei Quan practice. What have I received/What blessings have come into my life? What have I done in return and What trouble has my existence caused. Casting our eyes over the past day and a half, we see that the four of us descended upon Leo and Saille in the middle of the night. Leo had stayed up and made a delicious batch of homemade tomato soup and Saille had baked a loaf of fresh bread. They had made up our beds and short of carrying us to our beds he did everything for us so all that we had to do climb in it and put our heads down.The following day was a very relaxing day. I slept most of it while the others spent time catching up and walking around the grounds. I have felt lots of love and joy in the way they have taken responsibility for us. And in return, we are grateful. Out of gratefulness we help each other. At the moment, Saille, Sudana, and Jorawal are working in the garden; doing some weeding and harvesting the beans. Meanwhile Leo is working on a panel to go behind the Buddha statue on one of the shrines and Joy is making supper. I am sitting above the kitchen and have the luxury of hearing her soft movements and smelling all the wonderful spices that she is using.
Amida France is basic and rustic. One feels the elements and the closeness to nature. We are surrounded by an orchestra of birds and insects. They are enveloping us with their love and saying 'look we are happy that you are here and sharing this space but remember that you are not alone. There is a family of bats living in the gap; a space which divides the main house from the annexe which we call the ecurie. And of course there are spiders everywhere you look. We are learning to overcome certain fears and learning to share a simple life completely with other sentient beings. Most of the activities here include growing fruits and vegetables in the garden and collecting firewood for the cold winter nights. There is a feeling of bliss and solace in living this kind of simple life; time is spent to meet the most simple and immediate needs. We have been blessed by Amida's grace and have so much to be grateful for, what a pity it would be to waste our time complaining.