Last weekend, on a sunny and windy day, we broke ground to begin construction on a Buddhist long-retreat center. My teacher asked me to say a few words about what we were doing. This is what I said:
Whatever we’re doing here, whatever our work is, I think, can be reduced in the end to one thing: to finally seeing that we are precious, that this life is precious, and that we are not separate from one another, nor this land, nor anything around us.
We build a retreat site here so that those who are able, can through extended practice, be witness to their full potential as human beings.
We make this place so that we may each pause in stillness, without the demands and distractions of ordinary life, in the simple safety of a cloistered environment, until we realize with our own experience that we are not only not alone or separate, but that we never have been–we cannot be. And that finally, face to face with our own basic goodness, and the basic goodness of all things, we will know this interconnectedness first hand, and we will know that we matter–-that everyone matters, that every thing matters.
If we busy ourselves here with ritual, with building, with cooking and teaching and learning, it’s really for one reason: because we are called–-our hearts are called–-by our teachers, whether they are Buddhist or not, to accomplish wisdom and compassion, and then, to live the only way one can when one has had such an experience: in the fuller flower of generosity and kindness, in clarity and joy, benefitting others without preference, or fear or worry.
Living in this way, we will be a relief and a blessing to the world. We will be useful and available to our friends, those we choose as family, to the members of our communities and our planet. We will hold the well-being and benefit of others–-even strangers, or those who declare themselves to be our enemies–-above our own, and from that place of honest caring, we will do whatever work we are called to do, we will nurture families, and build communities of responsibility, generosity and peace.
We are here today–-all of us–-to collect our inheritance. I hope you feel welcome to take hands-full. Pockets-full and buckets-full, as much as you like.
It belongs to you.