In times gone by, it was the tradition in China and Japan for Buddhist monks to withdraw from their public role in their 58th year. The 58th year in Buddhist astrology is known as kakumei, which literally means ‘revolution’ but actually refers to a complete change of life from being focussed outwardly in the public mundane realm to turning inwardly to focus on developing deeper spiritual awareness. This is my 58th year and so I too am following this ancient tradition by retiring from my public role as a Buddhist priest and spiritual advisor to a life of contemplation. This ‘revolution’ is a shift from the masculine energy work of ‘doing’ to the feminine energy work of ‘being’.
I will now turn to practicing more deeply the skills that have been taught to me by my teachers. This requires a lot of time and inwardly focussed energy work. It is the time for Yin practice: drawing inward the feminine energy of darkness, coolness, moonlight and solitude. I want to continue my dream yoga practices and to perhaps to one day express the visions I receive in art. This is following the way of the 13th-century Buddhist monk Myoe and also the way of the Christian mystic Hildegard of Bingen, both of whom painted their dream visions. These paintings then were used as amulets for spiritual healing and I hope that one day I can do the same.
I believe that a spiritual practice is useless unless it is lived fully and completely and honestly. My public role has been a vital part of my own practice, but it has also been very exhausting for me because I am not very skilled at replenishing my spiritual energy efficiently. I always felt that I just needed to try harder! But this effort was misguided and did not acknowledge my own deep nature which requires a great deal of quietude and solitude to replenish the deep wells of spiritual wellbeing. Recently I have come to realise that I am not going to be much help to anyone if I continue to ignore my own nature.
I am beginning to understand that my most effective role is that of the contemplative: I know that in the past many prayers have been answered when I adopted the role of the ‘prayer vessel’ and offered prayers along the Kannon Pilgrimage route and in Wabi’an. Whilst I have always been so happy to know that my counselling skills have been useful, it is my contemplative prayerful role that fills me with joy and peace. And this flowing of joy and peace is what I am able to offer to heal the world in my own small way.
I want my spiritual contribution to the world to be what comes from my heart as I fully embrace my practice. When, for example, I walk through the supermarket, I know that if I am balanced in my own spiritual energy, then I can radiate a healing to whoever I pass by. This is the result of living practice, of being the embodiment of practice. It is nothing special but at the same time it is the very foundation of healing, joy and authentically living.
So I hope that you will forgive me, my dear fellow pilgrims, for seeming to have abandoned you! In our very masculine energy Western society, it seems that unless we are seen to be doing, then we are not active agents in the world. However, there is great healing in being: being fully present, being fully aware, being authentic. By its nature, being is formless: it does not have a shape, a label or job description. But being has an energy: in the same way that science tells us the greater part of the universe is made up of mysterious ‘dark matter’ (the ultimate feminine energy!) that cannot be experienced by the physical senses, so being is an invisible expression of spiritual energy. Very difficult to describe in words, which are physical entities! It is this practice of being that is to be the focal point for my own spiritual practice that I wish to nurture and develop more strongly.
Once again, I feel the need to withdraw from the cyber world: I have found social media and the internet to be very useful tools but also, for me, sometimes quite overwhelming. I might wander back some day, but for now please know that you are all in my heart and I send you all my warmest blessings. My gratitude to you knows no bounds, as all that you have taught me has brought me to this place that I feel is my truest calling. I bow in deepest appreciation and thanks.