On March 17 th last year at Melbourne Buddhist Centre we had the launch of the Buddhas in my Pocket pilgrimage.
At the same time Dantacitta placed my kesa around my neck and I set myself the challenge to wear it every day for the duration of the pilgrimage. But the pilgrimage end date began to extend out as I responded to further requests to support others in sharing the Dharma. However I kept the commitment to wear it daily right up until 27 th February this year. Nearly 12 months.
I thought it was going to be much more challenging than it was.
The first two days had me feeling a bit self conscious but that fell away quite quickly and then it was a mostly positive experience.
I have engaged in lots of discussions started by people curious enough to ask me what my kesa was………on trains, trams, supermarket, in a doctor’s surgery, Centrelink, picture theatres, going through Customs, family functions and so on.
When I checked with a few people about what they had imagined it was, the majority thought I was ‘something religious …perhaps a minister of some sort’ .
Lining up for the toilets on an international flight to a Birmingham I was asked by a businessman about Buddhism in Japan as he had just been there for work. One of the guys in his meeting had to excuse himself to attend a Buddhist ceremony at a temple and it had intrigued him.
I largely welcomed opportunities to talk about a Buddhism. There was resistance a couple of times because I was on my way somewhere and running short of time.
But it wasn’t lack of time or embarrassment that led me to decide just recently to not wear it every day.
For the Buddhas in my Pocket pilgrimage I was in Adelaide a few weeks ago and there were a number of days with temperatures soaring to over 40 degrees.
The kesa is not made out of a natural fibre and in extreme heat the sweat pools around the material on the neck and it’s uncomfortable.
For the first time in nearly a year I was really resistant to putting it on.
But I noticed something in me that wanted to push through and ‘achieve a full year’.
There was a flavour of pride and attachment to rites and rituals about it.
This attitude was missing the original spirit of the challenge.
So when I got ready to fly to Toowoomba for the next stop on the pilgrimage last week I chose not to wear it. I imagined the humidity and heat was going to be extreme in Queensland, as it sometimes still is this time of year.
Well this concern did not eventuate, as it’s been very pleasant weather and definitely not as hot as my Adelaide visit.
And I did begin to miss not wearing my kesa a few days after arriving in Toowoomba.
So I have decided to take the middle way.
I won’t go back to only wearing my kesa in the shrineroom or at Buddhist centres nor will I commit to wearing every day.
I will just wear it when there is a natural urge to wear it- wherever that happens to be- outside in public, at home etc and just see how that unfolds.
Note : a kesa is an article of clothing that goes around the neck to denote an Ordained Member of Triratna Order- usually worn when conducting rituals, classes, retreats or meeting with other Order Members