Millie-Pup being blessed on the Buddha Relics Tour, Lambeth 2014 Photograph by Nick Fleming
Life comes in waves, with ups and downs, calms and exhilaration, the extraordinary and the mundane, hard work and coasting, and lots of different ports to find shelter, recuperation and the will to continue. And then life comes full circle, as it did this weekend.
In recent weeks, as our healing here at home has continued, I have spent many hours alone in the spa pool at The Circle Spa, under the watchful eye of the three Buddhas, washing away the residual emotions and swimming lengths to heal my physical body and straighten out my mind. The other regulars are used to me chanting in there, sitting in deep meditation in the water or sauna, and we all just get on with being who we are. One repeated prayer which kept bubbling up in me was to heal so deeply from having been the lightening conductor for so much hatred, anger and toxic venom over the years, from which there just was no escape, by being in the company of saints. I longed to feel that lightness of being, the sparkle of joy, and the radiance of pure happiness again. I longed to align again to the light around me, without the fear of drowning in being judged, criticised and despised which had so brought me to my knees in deep supplication. The darkness is not dispelled by being in the light, but being light. I wanted company, respectful company where I could rebuild my trust in opening my inner door out of darkness without being destroyed again.
Yesterday Nick and I took Millie-Pup to be blessed by the relics on the Buddha Relics Tour which was here in London for the weekend, a couple of miles from where we live now and a couple of hundred yards from where I grew up in Kennington. The Jamayang Centre now, more than symbolically, occupies what was the Lambeth Magistrates Court when I was growing up, when the police sirens heralded terrorists coming to be tried there because it was then London's only high security court before Paddington Green was built. Where the judge once sat listening to charges against terror suspects now presides a large golden Buddha. What hope this ignites in the possibilities for a place which has been tormented by the terror of violence. Now the courtroom was filled with a completely different audience: the extraordinary little pearl-like crystals, embodying the master's spiritual qualities of compassion and wisdom, found among the cremation ashes of the who's who of Buddhist Masters.
When these relics were on tour recently in Bhutan, over 60% of their country came to be in their presence, needing major police intervention to keep some sort of law and order around them. Here, though, when we arrived, we were alone with the relics apart from those on duty from the tour organisers and the centre's students. We were put so at ease as if we were just dropping in for a cup of tea and a chat with the most enlightened gathering of souls no longer confined by the physical time and space. The central buffet table groaned under the heavyweight reputation of Buddhism's enlightened. Each Master's relics were in tiny little crystal cups with a named place card, set among crystal champagne cups of golden saffron water, and banquet bouquets, so tastefully and masterfully presented to make it perfectly formally informal for the formless to greet their guests and put them totally at their ease. The lightness in the room shone from within. Relaxation without pomp and ceremony filled the room with the oh-so-delicate fragrance of incense and fresh flowers.
For Nick this was a deeply poignant moment. Last year, while he was still in India recovering from collapsing on a pilgrimage in the High Himalayas, he and his assistant, Dalbir Singh, had visited the Buddhist Monasteries in Rewalsar, a place equally sacred for Hindus and Sikhs. Nick stood before the relic of Padmasambhava, who took Buddhism to Tibet, and whose spirit lives among the reeds at Rewalsar.
For me, I was carried back to my first visit to India and the Buddhist Monasteries in the Foothills and then the Royal Academy's exhibition on Buddhism I had walked around daily in awe.
For Millie-Pup it was the moment to acknowledge all the love and selfless healing she has brought to our lives. She instantly felt at home in this little room, her eyes lighting up and blurred tail wagging as she does when she sees someone she loves. As we walked in, she lay down next to me as I bowed, without any prompting and as I carried her around the table so she could see the display her body became alive to the silent stillness she felt so deeply. Receiving the blessing of relics being placed on her head, I could feel a great load shed from her with a huge sigh as the weight of the world ebbed away and she bounced away with the lightness of touch to glow with inner peace.
The simplicity of purity and radiance shone deep into my core with such compassion dispelling the darkness of illness and pain. This was healing at its most sublime, subtle and substantial: sitting in the company of saints, insubstantial in their concentrated spirit. When we strip back to beyond the bare bones of our existence, beyond the questions of permanence, will what remains cast its light beyond limits?