Ken M. experiences some sweet gratitude.
The short answer is the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha have changed my life. And I would like to see others benefit from the teaching’s of the Buddha as well.
Now for the long answer. I don’t know what all the causes and conditions were five years ago but at the age of 60 I met the Dharma. I was a successful but not so happy person. Peace, tranquility and contentment were not familiar attributes. Rather stress, anxiety, irritability, frustration and restlessness were all too familiar. The Dharma has changed all that and I can truly say that my ignorance, anger and attachment which was the source of all my suffering has begun to diminish. It’s a long journey, however, and I am satisfying myself with baby steps in this lifetime.
But why the Abbey? What is so special about this place? I have supported many worthwhile organizations during my life. Usually I have to check them out on charity watchdog websites to make sure they are spending my contributions wisely. At the Abbey I don’t need to do that. I can see firsthand how my dana is being spent. And I can tell you that every dime is spent with care and respect. Everything is used to its fullest and then recycled when that is possible. No waste and always an eye toward conservation and good environmental principles. No luxuries or crystal cathedrals here. They agonized over every detail when building Chenrezig Hall to make certain the money was being spent wisely.
Now, of course, I am concerned about my own happiness and awakening. But I have even greater concern about the world in which we reside. There is no way to find personal happiness if everyone else is suffering. The Abbey motto is: “Bringing Peace in a Chaotic World.” I feel that my support of the Abbey and its worldwide outreach is helping to bring about that result. If my contributions help just one other person hear the Dharma and have compassion for the refugees from Syria, think deeply about gun violence in this country or our foreign policy, accept climate change as real, be concerned about gender inequality, or become active in any number of social issues then my money has been well spent. I just finished listening to the wonderful teachings that Venerable Chodron delivered in Singapore. All of these issues and more were addressed clearly and compassionately in her Dharma talks.
The issue of merit can be misconstrued. I don’t see my financial contributions as earning points toward some ultimate goal. I think of it instead as building some positive potential or force within me that can open my mind to the teachings and ultimately help me be free from the poisons of ignorance, anger and attachment.
What I love about Buddhism is it doesn’t just tell us about suffering but it clearly explains why we suffer and gives us a pathway to be free. The Sangha of Sravasti Abbey doesn’t just talk the talk but they walk the walk. They are my example. I could not have found a better guide for following the path to awakening.