The Last Post (for a while…)

And what a ride it’s been!

I started this blog less than 9 months ago, soon after the WA bhikkhuni ordination. It filled a need that I had felt, for a way of communicating that was more direct and contemporary. And it seems to have filled a need for others, too: 226 000 views, and nearly 6000 comments.

Through this, I’ve been able to connect and share in a way that would not have been possible otherwise. I’m a writer: I guess I always have been one at heart. The blog format offers what is, for me, a great combo of directness and substance. I can say things of meaning, and include serious analysis, but there’s always room for some lightness of heart, too.

But the truly astonishing thing has been you lot. My goodness, what a lot of words! True to its origins, the most vital and stimulating topics have consistently been those on bhikkhuni ordination. This, for me, is a sign; a sign that we have tapped into a deep shared need. So much has been deeply heart-felt. I’ve been surprised, moved, delighted – and yes, more than occasionally annoyed – to find what is in your hearts expressed here so well.

I have this feeling, this image in my mind, like Odysseus on his journey home. After ten years at war, it took another ten years to cross the few hundred miles of ocean back to Ithaca and his beloved. He lost everything: his ships, his men, his treasure; and was adrift on the wide ocean, clinging to a bit of driftwood in a mighty storm. He is cast upon the beach, and makes his way, finally, to his home. Only to find that his halls are overrun with usurpers. That moment, which he had yearned for for so long, turned out to be his greatest challenge.

This is how I feel about my life with the WPP tradition. I was lost, and they gave me a home, gave me a direction. In the world so messed up and confusing, they recognized my pain, and offered a way out. My life owes so much to them that I can never express it. And yet – and yet! – there is still this. It is as if I have been gradually waking up these past ten years or so, coming out of a self-induced dream.

I cannot blame anyone else for my own dreams. But the reality is so much colder, so much harder, that I do not wonder why so many of us prefer not to wake up.

We dream of a truth, of something untouched and pure. In our hearts we long for a safe harbor, for certainty and protection. And we yearn for this so deeply that we give up our all. We hand our hearts over in trust. It is so rare, so precious! So few of us even have the chance to dream, still fewer to realize our dreams. We give up all and move on; and we imagine that our chosen ones feel for us what we feel for them. That our dreaming and their dreaming is one and the same. And we forget, we pass over, the many little details that should be teaching us that the ocean is not just soft breezes and caressing waves, but also has treacherous reefs and sharp teeth.

Nothing can be undone; the choices we have made, we must live with. We are in that most human of dilemmas, hearts undone and confused, just wanting something so simple: the truth that frees.

That truth is not outside. It does not lie with any tradition. Those in whom we seek a refuge, the ‘masters’ of the spirit; they too are human, all too human. Can we be brave enough to admit this to ourselves? To acknowledge that the sacred Dhamma is under the custodianship of a Sangha made of human beings, like ourselves, full of pain and heartbreak?

Then is another choice. To give up, submit to the waves; let the waters close over our heads.

Or to learn to swim. To kick. To struggle. And most important of all: to hold out a helping hand. To forgive, and to love, with a love that knows the folly and the blindness. To recognize that we are the masters; that we hold the Dhamma pure and pristine in our own hearts; that, if we stay true that little guiding star, we need not seek refuge, but can offer it.

I give my great thanks to all my friends on this blog, especially those with the courage to disagree with me. You are all my teachers. I’m going away for a while now. We’re entering our three month vassa retreat, and I won’t be attending to this blog in this time. The comments will stay open, and I hope the discussion continues. The vassa ends October 23 – almost exactly a year after the bhikkhuni ordination. I’ll be back then.

Until then, don’t forget. Stay true.