What else is to be discovered from the world? And why did this search culminate for Kusalasara, in joining a Buddhist Order in the Spanish mountains?
I’ve had a book on ancient Mexican art for many years. In it there’s a photograph of a parrot carved from stone that amazes me whenever I look at it. The parrot is all head and is highly abstracted. It’s pretty much cuboid and of a memorable and striking design, with clear contours and fine carving. I could never have come to thinking of a parrot like this: it’s so different from the shape of my own concept of a parrot. And yet I understand it. I relish the combination of surprise and understanding, that moment of something new and beautiful entering into my consciousness and of my consciousness responding, accommodating this new way of seeing parrots, or this new way of seeing stone. If a person, or better to say a culture, can come to create something so beautiful and so far away from my own language, and I can receive it, what else is there to be discovered from the world? This kind of encounter assails the complacency I have about my own life and views. There have been many such encounters: other people’s heroism and ordinary kindnesses; someone forgiving where I cannot.
I was ordained into the Triratna Buddhist Order last summer. This involved considerable preparation over some years – a training in love and friendship (a training which is by no means over). It culminated in a three-month retreat in the Spanish mountains and the public ordination ceremony in which my new name was announced.
Buddhism gives me a way to respond with discernment to the beguiling charade that is the world around me
I came into contact with Buddhism through my family and have been lucky to have it present in my life from a young age. It has been something, like the parrot, that shows me at once my own limits and my own limitlessness. It gives me a way to respond with discernment to the beguiling charade that is the world around me, with all its greed and violence – to see what is of value and what is not, without having to rely completely on the untrustworthy guide that is my own mind (with all its greed and violence). When I’m in touch with what the Buddha taught, I feel a kind of hum of truth which I want to commit to as fully as I can. Joining an order is a way to clarify and celebrate my values, to be among others who are living them out and to contribute to something important. It is something to live up to and a challenge; to need less for myself and be more useful to others. The more I am able to live from Buddhist values, the more radical my life becomes. I’m thirty four now and I hope that the older I get, the more radical I’ll become.