Leaving one’s home is a key narrative in Buddha-dharma. Most obviously, it points us to Shakyamuni’s night-time flight from wealth , family and privilege, the start of his long awakening process. Commonly, it is often how we describe the beginning of a monastic life, renunciation, whether that is permanent or time-limited. Pilgrimage is another example where we move purposefully away from our home, leaving all of its familiar comforts for a new life of simplicity. In all cases it is a change of direction, a severing of life patterns with clear and structured intention. These are what Turner calls “liminal” acts, that is, they are determined choices we make to cross over the thresholds of our lives and set out onto some new path.
In a few days I will undertake my own brief home-leaving as I join my companion priests for the Tendai Symposium on Hiei-zan, the mountain complex which is our shared centre. In this case, I am leaving my secular home to take up temporary residence in our tradition’s spiritual home. For a few of the party, this is a return to a place of their training, friends and memories. For me it remains a sketch, drawn from others’ stories, from Internet images and legends I have read of Saicho, Ryogen and thousands of other dharma-ancestors.
Ours is a wanderers’ tradition, from that mythic home-leaving of Shakyamuni through innumerable less momentous travels. For each of us, whenever we set off from the safety of our home, we are called on to recognize the transience of that place. We are not our property, estate or town. Leaving home, be that temporary or permanent, requires that we, like Shakyamuni, reach deep within for that which sustains us on the journey.
This home-leaving of mine is thick with apprehension and excitement - a foreign landscape, language, culture. Interestingly, it comes on the other portentous threshold of this month and year, the tenth anniversary of our Red Maple Sangha. I am crossing that threshold, leaving a remarkable period that marked the establishment of one of the world’s great religious traditions in our country, our Dharma legacy. What I will walk back into I can only guess. Many of you will cross this new threshold with me. In spite of the apprehension about both of these thresholds, I bring with me our vision and my own insatiable curiosity about this Way of ours. Shall we see what unfolds on this journey?
Yours in the Dharma,
om namo amida butsu
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