Continuing from yesterday’s post, Alan Lewis writes:
“Venerable Sir, is there anything you need?” When someone asked that question, they were asking for the opportunity to participate in your life as a monk, and to connect more profoundly to their own spiritual aspiration, through associating with you – who were living the Buddha’s teaching full-time. So if they asked that question”is there anything you need” and you said “No thanks, I don’t need anything right now…” it was like you were shutting a door in their face, and they’d feel a bit rejected and denied the opportunity to participate in your life as a monk.
So when I saw that, I realized that it wasn’t about me and my needs – it was about something bigger. And my part in this was to enable my life to be used by them as a conduit to the spiritual dimension, and I could be generous myself by always welcoming that gesture and allowing it to be consummated.
In fact there were always things we collectively needed – such as postage stamps, or razorblades. So even if I didn’t need these things myself, I had an answer I could give them: “well – I could use some stamps, and some razor blades would be very helpful…” and you could see that this is just what they wanted – an opportunity to go off to seek out and buy these little things, and then come back and make their offering.
I think in Western cultures we so much emphasize our independence and individuality that it gets way out of proportion – we hate the idea of dependence somehow, and yet we are totally interdependent – participating in a constantly changing dynamic matrix of exchanging – giving and receiving all the time.
Alan Lewis became a Buddhist monk in a Thai-derived monastic order in England in 1983. He lived there for 11 years then moved to Sri Lanka and Thailand in the 90’s and disrobed in December 2000. One of his projects is Zen Moments, a web-source of ” beautiful and inspiring true stories.” Please go there to read this article in full. Reprinted with permission © 2010 Zen Moments.