If I had to guess, there are probably far fewer Buddhist centers on the Atlantic coast than the Pacific region of America. And for prisons in the Carolinas it is rare to find any Buddhist services. Or is it? ….
I happen to be a chaplain’s clerk who enjoys greeting others, no matter what religious service is being held in the chapel. There are Christian, Islamic, American Indian, Moorish Science, and Messianic Judaism services. In my eleven years in prison it has been rare to find a fellow Dharma practitioner, a so-called member of the sangha. But the true Dharma eye needs no service. With right understanding, service is held in every breath, with every step, in every thought, word, and action. The sangha includes every precious sentient being, each a beautiful jewel towards whom we have compassion, patience, and loving kindness.
“I can’t stand gang members, they are so loud. Damn junkies, always stealing. Gay people make me sick. Muslims are a bunch of terrorists.” Thoughts like these are thoughts of dukkha (suffering). Silly mind, do you not understand that the buddha nature is within all? “You, the richest person in the world, have been going around laboring and begging, when all the while the treasure you seek is within you,” Huang Po.
Instead of ridiculing, judging, being enamored, or lacking empathy, understand that the sangha is all-inclusive.
In ignorance we separate ourselves. Make your understanding as broad as the sky. Make your compassion as vast as the oceans. We are all a bit different and yet the same in wanting happiness and not wanting suffering. We each hold a beautiful and worthy paint brush (our minds) that must be dipped inside a collective heart. Gently and nurturingly we bring to life a colorful work of enlightened art! – Clearing the moment’s path.
In the new year, each and every day may we be mindful that the Buddha nature is within all, the Dharma is the truth of existence and phenomena, and the sangha is all-inclusive.
Service in every breath, sangha in every smile.