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When it Rains

Quoted from this talk on the legend of Aṅgulimāla, from the Wild Heart Meditation Center's Spring Retreat, the speaker quoting their teacher:

When it rains
Before I can get to the sound of the rain
I have to walk through sounds of war
I have to walk through the screams of young men dying
I have to walk through the visions of tree lines up in napalm
I have to listen to the screams of 17-year-old boys crying, for their fathers, for their girlfriends, for their mothers
Before I can get to a place that is just rain.

The talk, overall, is an exploration of forgiveness, redemption and compassion.

There is something about forgiveness that is a letting go. But it doesn't erase karma (the effects of actions). The Buddha's advice to the reformed notorious killer Aṅgulimāla, when people continue to treat him with fear and hatred, is simply: bear it. Bear your karma.

There's something to the idea that true, deep self-forgiveness ultimately enables one to bear the ripple effects of one's past actions all the more. A form of radical acceptance.

But there's much work to be done, when it rains, to get to place that is just rain.

That is the path.

Also quoted in the talk is Aṅgulimāla's poem on his awakening, The Moon Released:

He who once lived in negligence, and then is negligent no more,
He is the one who brightens this world, like the moon released from a cloud.
Who follows up with wholesome deeds unwholesome deeds he may have done,
He is the one who brightens this world, like the moon released from a cloud.
Indeed that youthful bikkhu who pours himself into the Buddhist teaching
He is the one who brightens this world, like the moon released from a cloud.

As we slowly practice letting go of the turmoil of our confusion and clinging, letting them slow down and lose energy, working with these clouds that pass over the pure depth of our hearts, we become more able to brighten this world.

This reminds me of a quote from Ajahn Chah (or possibly Ajahn Sumedho, some sources seem to say? I think it was attributed to Chah in the dharma talk where I first heard it, also from the Wild Heart MC):

…simplify your meditation practice down to just two words - letting go - rather than try to develop this practice and then develop that, and achieve this and go into that, and understand this, and read the Suttas, and study the Abhidhamma, and then learn Pali and Sanskrit, and then the Madhyamika and the Prajna Paramita, and then get ordinations in the Hinayana, Mahayana, Vajrayana, and then write books and become a world renowned authority on Buddhism. Instead of becoming the world's expert on Buddhism and being invited to great international Buddhist conferences, just 'let go, let go, let go.'

I did nothing but this for about two years - every time I tried to understand or figure things out, I'd say, 'let go, let go' until the desire would fade out. So I'm making it very simple for you, to save you from getting caught in incredible amounts of suffering. There's nothing more sorrowful than having to attend international Buddhist conferences! Some of you might have the desire to become the Buddha of the age, Maitreya, radiating love throughout the world - but instead, I suggest just being an earthworm, letting go of the desire to radiate love throughout the world. Just be an earthworm who knows only two words - let go, let go, let go.