spilled wine

This past week, I had the occasion to come across a small book that I found in a used book shop while on holiday with my family in Portsmouth, NH . It is entitled A Record of Awakening by David Smith. The subtitle is Practice and Insight on the Buddhist Path. Written in his own hand, this self-described “ordinary chap”, a gardener from England, tells of his deep awakening while practicing the Way at a Threravada Buddhist monastery in Sri Lanka. I won’t be a plot-spoiler, but suffice to say that if you are sincerely interested in the Dharma, this may be quite an eye-opening book for you. It was extremely inspirational to me, an ordinary chap myself, to read the story of the enlightenment experience of someone who had no advanced education or special knowledge, just a sincere desire to awaken. At the end of his account, he gives a few words of final advice, and one of his phrases resounded very deeply with me. He says, “Immerse yourself in the Dharma, dive into it like you would a pool of cool water on a hot summer’s day, but never get out!” This past weekend I also had the occasion to experience a brief illustration of why it is so important to practice. I was at my in-laws’ house and as I was pouring red wine into a glass, it spilled all over the countertop. As I attempted to clean up the mess, I knocked over the wine glass and it almost shattered. I swore out loud, anger flashing. My daughter was right behind me, and heard me. She wanted to know what the matter was. In that instant I realized how foolish I must have looked, getting so upset over some spilled wine. That ever-present Me was wronged once again, by these mindless, inanimate objects. Upon reflection, I saw the folly of thinking that we can somehow control every situation we find ourselves in. Shouldn’t we expect that if we open the bottle carefully, and slowly tip it towards the glass, that the wine will flow smoothly? But no. Despite our best plans, the wine spills or our car refuses to start or we lock ourselves out of our house or we lose our eyeglasses. But just who is it that gets so angry? I think practicing the Dharma can show us that there’s no one here to even get upset. Or maybe that I shouldn’t be drinking wine.

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