Namu Amida Bu
In a village, in the English county of Leicestershire (pronounced “less-t’share” ), live a community of Buddhists. Known to the villagers as The Red People on account of the colour of their apparel, these are the community of Amida Buddha; last weekend Nic and I visited them.
I was mistaken for a Buddhist. Easy mistake to make under the circumstances but at the time I was surprised. I mean do I look like a Buddhist? Don’t answer that.
As a matter of fact, I don’t even know for certain what makes one a Buddhist. You might think that after spending a weekend on retreat in a Buddhist house I would know better. But when I start learning about something it feels like my knowledge is diminishing: I learn how little I know. For example, how did I get to forty without knowing who Adam Smith was? (If you don’t know who Adam Smith was, stop reading this drivel now and go find out)
Meanwhile, back in Buddhist Leicestershire, we walked slowly, chanted, sat quietly, and glued sparkly things on a big sheet of paper. We enjoyed meeting some very interesting people and we enjoyed eating veggie food.
I wanted to go visit because Dharmavidya: spiritual leader of the order, is also David Brazier: author of a wonderful book, which I was given for my 40th (Thanks Eva!). I contacted him, after reading it, and tried to ask some ill-formed questions that were floating in my mind after doing VSO and reading Ayn Rand, etc. He invited me to visit and I booked a flight and hired a car for a weekend when there was a retreat on. Sadly his plans changed and he and I, like Mr Rain and Mrs Shine, were no in the house at the same time.
My entire trip was fraught with thwarted travel plans. All Saints Day, when I left Rennes, is a national holiday in France; consequently there were no buses to the airport. My flight back was cancelled due to fog; I decided to stay with Nic and work in London for the week and, therefore, not to use the emergency Ryan Air ticket to Nantes she’d bought me. Not flying into Southampton on Friday meant I had to collect my hire-car from a different place than I was going to drop it off at and we all know that runs into money. Driving to Southampton at 7am on Monday should have been a dream but was, in fact, a nightmare as I waited for an hour-and-a-half, with the engine turned off, surrounded by people wandering about the M40 smoking and trying to see the jack-knifed lorry up ahead. I missed my ‘plane again and ended up paying nearly two hundred quid and arriving in Rennes at 9:30pm after seven hours on trains. A real lesson in foregoing my attachments, in fact.
The group, minus-David, gave thought provoking answers to my ill-formed questions and they played a tape of him talking about their friendship-based approach to aid. And, the facilitator pointed out, I can always Skype Dharmavidya when I get home.
Well, I can when my Internet works.