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Buddhas in my pocket

An Australian Buddhist Pilgrimage

Recently released in the Bourke st Mall

I commented on his hat. It was a warm fleece beanie like the one I had pulled down tightly around my ears as protection from the chilly winds in the Bourke st Mall.  I was impressed with the twin little LED lights imbedded in the material on the front of the hat.

“Yeah” he said “its a great hat to take night fishing. But I haven’t been fishing in a long time.”

I also guessed it would be handy at night living on the streets.

So began an easy banter as his quieter mate, sitting near bags containing their street sleeping necessities, looked on.

My beanied new companion’s nose looked like it had met the end of another fist maybe one time too many. I wasn’t completely surprised to hear he had been recently released from prison. In fact he told me he had spent nearly half his 45 years of life incarcerated.

The most recent stint was in the Remand Centre for 3 months for stealing a purse.

His first armed robbery was aged 13,  involving a knife and paper boy.

He didn’t have too many complaints about his time in prison. In winter he was appreciative of being warm and fed three times a day.  Currently he was struggling a bit with having to deal with the pain of the single remaining rotting tooth in his mouth.  A short visit of three months in Remand Centre did not come with dental care.

He grinned saying “I don’t want to do another 5 year stint just to get this last tooth fixed!”  He was cheerful and cheeky and obviously alive to new freedom even if it involved returning to a life on the streets.

‘Recently released’ (who I will now call RR) moved quickly to see what was on offer when I opened my little bag of buddhas. When I said they were gifts he cheekily asked for two.

The first Buddha he chose because its neck thread meant he could start wearing it immediately and the other was chosen because he liked how peaceful it looked.  As we discussed its  gentle, white form RR told me how his education had completely been delivered during his life in prison.  He had learnt ceramics and pottery. The details he gave were enough for me to believe this part of his story.

As we warmed to each other’s company he grabbed a little pack of “Hand Warmers” from his bag. Someone had left the pack with two Snickers bars by his head overnight as he slept on the cold concrete in his alcove of choice.

He inquired,  “Miss, would you mind reading the instructions for me. I want to know if it needs to go in a microwave.”

It’s strange being called Miss. I know it’s these guys way of showing respect especially if they want to ask for help with something. Even though I give my name and encourage them to use it, sometimes they naturally revert to Miss or Ma’am.

So I was sitting with another human beings basic need to stay warm in our chilly winter.

I felt deeply happy at the thought of a fellow Melbournian  going to the trouble of buying hand warmers and leaving them anonymously in reach of of people sleeping on the streets. For this man their gift was a blessing.

RR was very pleased to hear all that needed to be done was to remove the outer plastic wrapper and shake the inner pack vigorously, after which delivery of 8 hours warmth to was promised where ever you placed the pack……back, pocket, socks etc.

to be continued……

Buddhas donated by Chris, Melbourne and Pasadadipa UK.

 

 

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Known as ‘The Russian’

As I was about to cross the road in front of Flinders street station I noticed his sign.

He wasn’t asking for money, instead the request was for work like tiling, gardening and painting.

As we chatted I discovered he had no offers so far that day but was still keeping hope.  This big man in his warm blanket poncho seemed to be in fairly positive states of mind as he shared his past and present life conditions with me.

He had slept the previous night behind the Matthew Flinders statue at the side of the church. Captain Flinders was an English navigator and cartographer and was the leader of the first circumnavigation of Australia, identifying it as a continent. 

Known as ‘The Russian’ on the streets, he took me on a meandering journey of  various phases of his life that involved time in the army in Russia, as a family man, as an owner of a Swiss chalet and back here again to his immediate need to find work and stay warm in the Melbourne winter.

As I prepared to leave I asked if he would like to choose a Buddha from my little bag.

His eyes fell immediately on a tiger’s eye Buddha. He said, ‘This one speaks to me.’

He was pleased it had a small hole so he could thread it onto the necklace he owned. 

Buddha donated by Wendy, Emerald Australia.

 

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Inspiring metta project

Its heart warming to see what others are doing to help those in need.

 

Meg’s first metta walk

It’s always delightful to receive news of someone having a go at a metta walk and being part of the Indra’s Net of handing on of Buddhas.

Meg’s story:
‘I’ve been out on a Metta Walk with two Buddhas donated for the  ‘Buddhas in my Pocket’ pilgrimage.
She who was Sarah and whose new Buddhist name is Akasalila passed them to me.
I’ve been meaning to take a Metta Walk for a while and finally made time today to do this in the city of Hereford.
I walked up from the River Wye, noticing how many people looked tired, stressed, and worried, eyes downcast. Only one young man accepted eye contact.
The town centre has a wide pedestrianised area called High Town, surrounded by shops, and with a beautiful medieval black and white Old House to one side, and an equally beautiful life size bronze statue of a Hereford bull on a big circular stone plinth next to it. I settled on one of the two benches between the Old House and the Bull.
I appreciated the reminder that a Buddha might not be even be handed over so I just waited and watched people of all ages crossing and sometimes re-crossing the space, carrying on wishing well to all beings (including the dogs and pigeons).
After a short while an old man approached on a mobility scooter and drew up to my left, at the corner of the Old House.

I looked at him and we made eye contact and I smiled at him.
He drove over in a friendly way and our conversation began about the price of things. He’d been to buy batteries and found them pricey.  His unkempt appearance did not hinder us connecting and I enjoyed talking to him.

He asked what bus I was waiting for and I replied that I wasn’t waiting for a bus. He was curious then and wanted to know what I was doing.

I said that a friend had given me small presents to give away, and would he like one? “Is this religious?”  he asked and I answered ” Yes, Buddhist. “

“What’s that?”  he asked. I brought the two Buddhas out and he took both.

He was happy to have a photo taken of them in his palm after I explained that it would help those who donated them see where they ended up.

He dropped the Buddhas into his pocket and we carried on talking. We exchanged names and he asked where I was from. I was born in Maidstone and we had an animated discussion about this. He has lived in Hereford all his life. His phone rang and he had to go to meet someone so we said goodbye and off he went.
I was amazed how simple and lovely it was to be able to give him the Buddhas in my pocket! I feel very grateful for the opportunity to do this.’

Buddhas donated by Michelle, Melbourne and Vajrajyoti and Akasasri NZ

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A Russian connection

Jody from Kempsey writes :

“When Maitripala visited the Kempsey Sangha in May she spoke about her pilgrimage and the tiny Buddhas she was giving out. This inspired me and she generously gave me two tiny Buddhas to pass on.

I was on a work related trip in Sydney and on 23 June I spoke to a man in the Devonshire Street tunnel at Central. He was seated on a crate, cap upturned in hand, seeking support. We chatted only briefly. He told me he was sleeping here and there. He was an older man with a white beard. He was born in Russia and had been in Australia for a number of decades.

I told him about the tiny Buddhas being given out. At first he didn’t know what I meant by Buddha. When he saw the figure in my hand he was delighted!

He accepted the Buddha and said it was “lucky”. I told him it represented his highest potential. He was very happy with that and interested in the idea of finding out more about the Buddha at the library. A warm and friendly connection was made. Perhaps I may see him when I return to Sydney.”

Buddha donated by Vidyatara, Australia

 

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Courage and fearlessness

Sometimes courage might be thought of as things like jumping into water when the weather is cold, or forgoing something we usually love to have in our lives, or exceling at a sport etc etc. But I believe a family member recently showed what I think of as real courage and bravery by speaking out at injustice and abuse especially in relation to children.

When I offered her a Buddha to choose I was not surprised when she chose Amoghasiddhi, the Buddha with the ‘fearlessness’ hand gesture. It’s a hand guesture that encourages us to stand with courage and fearlessness in the face of whatever suffering we meet or when things feels to scary and overwhelming.

I hope this Buddha reminds her that even when the sense of fearlessness at times feels small, the truth is, it is always possible for any person to eventually access vast, unbounded, fearlessness.

 

Buddha donated by Megha Australia

 

 

 

The happy buddha

I sat down near a young, university student at Federation Square right in a place where the warm winter sun enveloped us. There is something delicious about taking time to fully appreciate the sun’s warmth and welcome it as it pushes back the envelope of brisk coldness, a familiar companion at this time of year.

I had been drawn to sit there so I could continue to gaze at the weather magic that had created an unusual beam of light pouring from a glass cased building in the city centre.

We used the sun’s presence to initiate conversation. She was enjoying being outside after spending 3 days cooped up in a hospital. Not ill, but undergoing new medication trials as a way of earning money as a student.

I took out my little parcel of buddhas and asked if she would like one.

The colour of one attracted her and she felt it was a happy buddha.

After telling her the name of the Order member who donated it, we talked of Nagas and Devis. She nodded knowingly as we spoke of the importance of touching the depths.

As I prepared to go, I appreciated  leaving with the gentle warmth of connection with another human being.

 

Buddha donated by Nagadevi, UK

 

 

A force of positivity

As I watched this person work I was really struck by her purposeful gait and boundless energy. Here was someone, nearly in her 7 th decade of this life, living so fully engaged in whatever she was doing.
She was endlessly positive.
Sometimes people are cheery on a surface level but underneath things can be turbulent.
However, with this inspiring woman, automatically seeing the best in people went down many layers deep.
Spending time around someone like that really brings confidence and trust easily into communication and connection.
When I offered her a Buddha she chose one mainly because of the colour.
It reminded her a little of pale New Zealand greenstone.
She also liked the shape.
She told me as we chatted, that as soon as she picked it up she realised she would hand it on to a friend- it really needed to go to her friend.
Sometimes the Buddhas in my Pocket are like that.
They still have a little more of a journey to go before they arrive fully into a new home .

Buddha donated by Ineke, New South Wales, Australia IMG_0378

Infinite potential

IMG_0015Someone who offered to hand on one of the Buddhas in my Pocket recently sent me her story …….

” I gave the small Buddha to my partner, who is suffering from depression and anxiety and is in a very constricted mental state.

He accepted the Buddha with sincererity knowing how important such a gift was to me. But when I told him it represented infinite potential he scoffed and said ‘well that is not me’.

Such a sad thing, as I have always seen his radiant potential and really believe in him.

I hope one day he will believe in himself again too.”

Buddha donated by Dhammannyu Hove UK

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Buddhas in my pocket

An Australian Buddhist Pilgrimage