07 March 2008

good in every thing

Before Ræchel was born we used to go to Stratford once a year to see a Shakespeare play. We are both extremely fond of Shakespeare and once Ræchel is old enough to stay with friends for the night – we shall take Robert. He has already seen Macbeth performed at Cardiff Castle and had great fun with a few of the actors during the interval who showed him how to wield a sword.

Several Lamas we have known have quoted Shakespeare – especially ‘to sleep perchance to dream’ – in the context of death and what lies beyond. Hamlet (III, i, 65-68) We are often delighted to find quotes from Shakespeare – particularly because they remain so apt. The idea of ‘good in everything’ is fundamental to being happy. We find it preferable to always see the good in everything rather than finding fault or error. To find ‘. . . tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in every thing’ makes a pleasure of life and a pleasure in observing the lives of those we know and love. That’s as we like it and the quote is from William Shakespeare’s As You Like It.

Now, my co-mates and brothers in exile, hath not old custom made this life more sweet than that of painted pomp? Are not these woods more free from peril than the envious court? Here feel we but the penalty of Adam, the seasons’ difference; as, the icy fang and churlish chiding of the winter’s wind, which, when it bites and blows upon my body, even till I shrink with cold, I smile and say ‘This is no flattery: these are counsellors that feelingly persuade me what I am.’ Sweet are the uses of adversity, which like the toad, ugly and venomous, wears yet a precious jewel in his head; and this our life exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in every thing. I would not change it.
William Shakespeare—As You Like It (II, i, Duke Senior to Amiens and other Lords)

We look forward to Ræchel being able to ride with us when we are in Montana with our students in the Aro Valley. Getting out into the wilderness is wonderful – and since Kyabjé Düd’jom Rinpoche indicated that the Northwest of Montana was a ‘Hidden Land of Padmasambhava’ we have spent some marvellous times there. Robert loves Montana and is always keen to return.

Montana is a place where finding ‘. . . tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in every thing’ seems natural. These opportunities are not lacking in Britain – but the scale is different and it is not quite so easy to disappear into uncharted territory. We have a wealth of memories of Montana – especially of Robert and Ræchel and the enormous enjoyment they have experienced there engaged in the simplest of activities. Robert enjoys helping with burning the slash when weather permits fires. There is always slash to clear in the Aro Valley and a hard day’s work prepares us for pizza in the evening. Robert is now riding Captain who was Doc’s old horse. Captain is too old for adult riders – but is still keen to canter with Robert on his back. Captain is not happy being left behind when the other herd members ride out and so it is heart-warming to see how happy he is with Robert. Ræchel loves being around the horses and is always delighted to be pulled up for a short ride. She sometimes lies on top of one of the horses and goes to sleep whilst we’re grooming.

‘. . . books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in every thing’ offers a reflection of the Dzogchen teachings of the Buddhist tradition we teach—the Aro gTér—which was the visionary revelation of Aro Lingma. The good in everything is essential to leading a happy life – and to real concern for the welfare of others. We are always encouraged by the kindness we find in others and especially those who live closer to nature. Being able to appreciate the world as it is, is the essence of our tradition and probably every other religion – and it is something that enables people to communicate across whatever divide appears to separate them. We have some good friends amongst the local folk in Montana and horses provide an almost endless subject of conversation.

The ‘. . . sermons in stones, and good in every thing’ becomes apparent when riding silently through the trees and when stopping to let the horses eat grass. Learning to be with horses and understanding their view of existence is an unspoken lesson in how to live – and we often feel that it is a pity that more people cannot spend time with animals. There is something simple and direct about animals that demands a simple direct warm-hearted approach.

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