My buddy Michael died in late January on the age of 39. Two weeks prior, he and his associate Addie got here to Buddhist follow for the primary time at our temple in Malvern, UK. He shared that he had 4 months between his most cancers analysis and his loss of life. In the shadow of his shortened life, I’ve been asking myself what it means to dwell a superb life. Is it crucial for us to have a religious follow or a religious dimension to our lives in an effort to dwell nicely? As a Pure Land Buddhist, I’ve additionally been questioning if Michael, having mentioned the title of Amitabha Buddha throughout his single time on the temple, is now in Amitabha’s Pure Land. I’ll discover these questions by telling you about three moments in our temporary friendship that I’ll always remember.
In the primary second, each of us had been absolutely alive. I first met Michael by way of our native Extinction Rebellion (XR) group, and on that day we had been collaborating in an motion in London. At 7 a.m., sixty folks from XR shut down the Lloyd’s of London constructing. This monetary establishment insures 40 p.c of the world’s vitality, together with a number of the world’s most environmentally harmful fossil gasoline tasks resembling tar sands pipelines and new oil and fuel exploration. Somehow, Michael and Addie had managed to climb up the skin of a spiral silver staircase and put in themselves in one of many curved landings. They had been possibly fifteen flooring up. Once there, they unfurled their enormous blue banner, “End Fossil Fuels Now”, to the cheers of all of us under. Michael climbed up and down the skin of the constructing 5 instances, with no security clip, to get the banner completely straight. It was seen by hundreds of workplace staff that day.
That afternoon, because the protest got here to an finish, they each started shimmying down the outside roof of the stairwell—rather more tough than climbing up had been. I used to be there to fulfill them on the backside as they made their closing bounce down. They had been lined in black dust and brimming with adrenaline. They had been afraid that police had been ready to ambush and bundle them right into a police van, so we walked as quick as we may away from the scene. I held their arms as we walked, and the vitality surged and shook by way of Michael’s hand and into mine.
I had such profound gratitude for them each in that second. They had finished this harmful factor as a result of they liked our planet fiercely and since they had been frightened (as I used to be) concerning the local weather emergency. They may see that the standard methods of affecting change weren’t working wherever close to rapidly sufficient. They noticed the necessity for non-violent civil disobedience, because it has been crucial and efficient many instances up to now. From the place I used to be wanting, what they did that day was a courageous and selfless act. It was the act of bodhisattvas.
The second second was a present for me. It was a couple of hours after essentially the most horrifying activism that I had ever carried out, “Rebellion of One”. Alongside different XR rebels across the UK, I had designed and painted a placard that learn: “I’m terrified starving people will resort to violence because of the climate crisis”. At a pre-appointed time and with a nod to my hidden help workforce, I walked slowly onto a busy metropolis heart street, my coronary heart banging, and sat down. After half an hour of drivers shouting abuse at me and my relatively disagreeable arrest, the policeman on the desk on the station took my particulars for the cost after which let me go straight residence relatively than placing me in a cell. When I walked out of the police station, Michael and one other member of the group had been there ready for me. They had each volunteered for police station help—a significant position in actions that embody arrests. Michael provided me a hug, and I obtained it gratefully. For the primary time because the motion started, I felt protected.
The third second I’ll always remember was additionally a hug. It was on the finish of our Buddhist follow a few weeks in the past. We had practiced collectively in our shrine room—sitting in silence, chanting, reciting the refuges and precepts. We sat across the eating room desk and drank tea. After some time, Addie and Michael answered my query of “How are you both?” by exchanging appears to be like after which, with the babble of different voices surrounding us, Michael instructed me that he didn’t have lengthy left. Before they went residence, I gave them each a hug. When I hugged Michael I used to be too near his bones. As we lingered for a second, I felt like he was saying, “It is true: I am dying.” I hoped that he heard from my hug, “I know, and you are loved.”
The nice sage Shinran, founding father of the Jodo Shinshu college of Buddhism, taught that if folks had been to say the title of Amitabha Buddha even as soon as they might be taken to the Pure Land once they died. There they might be supplied with the proper situations for enlightenment, after which they might return to this world of struggling and work towards the liberation of all beings. What would this have meant to Michael, who recited the Buddha’s title alongside us within the shrine room but who (so far as I do know) wasn’t conscious of Amitabha’s vow? Did the small quantity of follow he did that night time deliver him any consolation? If he’d had longer on the temple, would it not have helped him? Did his saying of the nembutsu make any distinction to what occurred to him after his loss of life?
I can’t reply these questions. What I do know is that, whether or not or not he had a proper religious follow, he was deeply linked to the Earth and he was impressed by her to take selfless motion. What is spirituality for, if to not join us to issues that aren’t ourselves and encourage us to compassionate acts? I’m positive that, like all of us, he was burdened with karma and restricted in numerous methods by his explicit wounding. The Buddha may have seen that and understood.
Whether or not Michael knew it, the Buddha accepted and liked him simply as he was. I witnessed solely a tiny fragment of what Michael did and the way he lived. From what I noticed, I can say with confidence that Michael was a superb man who lived a superb life. I belief that the great from his compassionate actions will proceed to ripple out.
I used to be pleased to obtain Michael and Addie into the temple. Their coming right here within the first place was a sort of nembutsu in itself—a calling out for one thing, an asking for grace. I belief that we are able to flip towards the sunshine at any time and that the sunshine takes many types. I belief that after we ask for assist from the Buddhas, we obtain it. I belief that there’s a nice benign unfolding, even when I don’t perceive it a lot of the time, and that we’re all enjoying our components. Michael performed his half completely—with or with out his prostrations to our golden Buddha two weeks earlier than he died. He performed it by being a form boyfriend and a fierce activist. He performed it by providing hugs to individuals who wanted them. He performed it by being himself. I bow to him, and to all the great he left behind. May he be at peace.
In reminiscence of Michael Dunn (3/19/1983–1/24/2023)