A while ago, I had an interesting discus- sion with Thay Phap An, the Director of the Buddhist Centre here in Waldbröl. I said to him:
“If we always do our best and give everything, without expecting anything in return, then we always get everything.“
On reflection, this sentence, which I have been carrying around inside me for a very long time, made something new clear to me. The inner attitude, which this sentence expresses, makes us one with the universe. We nourish the universe and the universe nourishes us. We are connected to an infinite number of solutions, dimensions, possibilities for support, … We are one, one with the infinite in and around us. In this sense, I feel deep friendship towards the monks and nuns of the EIAB as a whole. They and the friends of the EIAB are all part of this infinite cosmos and the boundless possibilities that are there for us. Let us continue to shape the present and the future together for the benefit of all. May every moment help us establish this contact to the infinite universe and allow us to be part of the whole. We are one. How wonderful.
We can experience this infinity when, for example, singing mantras. I often feel this way on such occasions and can also discover this quality of the infinite in uplifting moments in concerts, on walks in nature and also in my work. I open myself to these qualities and then discover them in all areas of life. Why is this important? For me it creates access to new solutions to the tasks I am allowed to fulfil. Fulfilled tasks create fulfilment within me, independent of external recognition. Simply fulfilling a task is a source of satisfaction.
When I think of the task of redesigning and rebuilding the Buddhist centre EIAB, European Institute of Applied Buddhism in Waldbröl, which is approx. 66m long, with 4 floors, a listed building with surprises waiting for me at every turn, this awareness that I can draw on two sour- ces of power from the divine universe at every moment was very supportive. There were so many moments when I could have despaired. I just didn‘t give room to this growing despair. In those moments I always said to myself, „Frank, you are meant to do fulfil this task. Now show yourself worthy of it“. At the same time I always asked for support by inwardly saying the following: „I say yes to this challenge and I ask the divine universe for support“. My teacher, Daya Mullins (The Middle Way – Daya Mullins Foundation) says
“When we say yes, the universe gives us the energy we need.”
That is exactly what I have experienced time and again. Especially during the work on the EIAB renovation I was always surprised by the support I received. Although work for the EIAB took up at least 100 % of my time, I still had time for other tasks and, thanks to the staff in my office, I earned considerably more than in the years before.
This was also the case with earlier tasks for The Middle Way – Daya Mullins Foundation. As the work at the EIAB progressed, so the support became more and more apparent. When I asked friends of the EIAB to help me sweep up the dust at the beginning of the demolition work, hardly anyone was interested. So I swept up the dust regardless and disposed of it so that the craftsmen would have a decent place to work in. I wanted to be a role model, also because it led to cost savings, among other things. At the beginning there were even people who opposed this voluntary work. However, I didn‘t let this stop me, even though it really hurt me inside and I felt left alone at times. This led to a few friends of the EIAB coming along to help me with this work. Everyone was surprised how meaningful voluntary work could be. The very same people then attracted others and we increasingly became a community, a Sangha. Rainer and Lotar from Cologne were especially supportive. They helped a lot to keep my spirits up. Wonderful friendships developed with many touching moments. More and more, I felt how I was also receiving support on a very practical level. Without the help of these friends of the EIAB, who have also become my friends, it would have been much more difficult for me to complete the task I was set. This also made clear that the tasks we are given are never an individual matter: they can only be completed well by a community, a sangha. The only important thing is that there is always one person to keep the flag flying and give directions. That is exactly what I was there for. It‘s not down to me that the renovation work was a success: we managed it together along with many craftsmen.
Looking back at those who ostensibly opposed voluntary help, I can see quite clearly that it was these very people who really encouraged me. They reinforced my determination to do the right thing and helped me develop the stamina to do it. Of these, one of them had even recommended me to the EIAB for this job years before. What does this mean? There are no adversaries.
“It is solely up to us, how we deal with obstacles.
Whether we choose to regard them as a compliment to our potential …”
… and a challenge to learn something new, or do we see the obstacles as insurmoun-table and fail even before we have even started? In my view, obstacles are there to be overcome. We can really learn from them. Today, now that the work on the 2nd and 3rd phase of construction at the EIAB has been completed and the task accomplished, I can say with gratitude that I have learned a lot and gained a lot, especially new friends who accept me as I am. This also makes it clear that we can only ever be ourselves, and trying to create a pretend identity can never help. I have always shown myself as I am, and this has resulted in the people involved in this process having trust and being prepared to help.
At one particular moment in the presence of Thay Phap An, the Director of the EIAB, when I looked particularly worn out, he told me that I am a good architect and an intelligent man. I replied that I was no star architect but certainly of average intelligence with a healthy dose of common sense. He has a docto- rate in mathematics, and as a former assistant to my mathematics Professor Bodo Liebe, I have a great deal of respect for that. The honourable Thay Phap An then responded that we are all of average intelligence and asked if I understood what he meant. Of course, I hadn’t understood and he explained as follows:
“If we were to put a point on a line, that begins in the infinite and ends in the infinite, to mark our level of intelligence, what difference would it make if it was a bit further left or a bit further right. So, we are all of average intelligence.”
At this moment I was so moved that tears came to my eyes; I felt a direct contact with this infinity. We are part of the whole and together we are the whole. Here there is no coming and no going. Together we are always being.
People have walked this path before us, prepared it for us, today we walk this path and tomorrow others will walk the path that we have prepared for them. It goes on like this forever. We are in contact with our ancestors and with our descendants. We are always in contact with everything that is. Everything else is illusion, misconceptions that only lead to suffering. In this awareness of „being one with everything“ lies redemption, fulfil- ment. It is precisely in this understanding that we find a way to complete the tasks that each of us has been given, something I will return to a little later.
In my view, Henry Purcell provides a wonderful description of this connection in his composition: “O solitude, my sweetest Choice”. This loving oneness, aloneness as oneness with the universe, is an expression of devotion and trust that more is possible than an individual can achieve alone. There are counter- tenors who touch infinity with their interpretation of this piece. Around the time of last New Year‘s Eve celebration, I had a particularly moving experience during a Mantra Singing Seminar by Sa- tyaa and Pari. We sang Sanskrit mantras for at least 3 hours a day. So the wisdom of these mantras penetrated deep into my being. Through my own singing, I was given the chance to express my own devotion to the infinite wisdom contai- ned in the mantras. In personal sharings with other participants, especially very young people and also with Pari himself, it became a little bit clearer to me on a deeper level that it is not me who can achieve something.
I can take on many things and achieve a great deal, perhaps even all I set out to do. The question is whether the result makes me happy, brings me peace and contributes to healing? Every egotistical goal can be achieved; however, it will not lead to happiness, peace and healing. On the contrary, it creates suffering. I can say this from my own experience, because, some time ago, every year I would write down my vision for the coming year, what I wanted to achieve and how I wanted to achieve it. Everything I wrote down I have achieved. Then there came a point when I realized that this alone did not lead to happiness, and much more would be possible if I let the „divine beings up there“ show me what is truly meaningful and fulfilling. The more I trusted in this, the more I became part of wonderful solutions, including the peace room (former monastery church in Gerode) of The Middle Way – Daya Mullins Foun- dation and also the 2nd and 3rd phase of construction at the EIAB. All these projects are and were meaningful. The peace room in Gerode is still under construction.
This mantra course with Satyaa and Pari encouraged me to listen and trust more in what „those up there“ want and to see myself as their tool. This does not mean that I no longer have free will. It means rather that I can decide for the only thing that is truly meaningful, the fulfilment available in the here and now of the eternal moment. The more I trust in this spiritual guidance, the more possibilities arise. This is exactly what makes me more of a magnet for really interesting tasks and it becomes clear that I am also meant to fulfil them. This makes me humble and grateful before creation and the Creator.
“I am willing to always do my best without the expectation that my work will bear fruit.”
With this I invite all the support into my life that is necessary to fulfil my tasks. We always get exactly what we need. If we give everything, we are given everything. From my own expe- rience I can say that I am becoming richer and richer on all levels. At the same time, it also means that I am given more and more responsibility for the people around me. We are always nurtured.
To end, a little anecdote: A few years ago, I was plagued by migraines once again. The only thing that helped was to move slowly. So, every time I got a migraine, I did walking meditation. During one walking meditation I passed a tree. The question popped up:
“Can a tree ever be private?”
Then, and to some extent now, It was important to me to have a private place where I could be alone. A tree doesn’t have this luxury. It gives itself selflessly at all times. It gives oxygen and shade, sometimes birds nest in it or it even bears fruit. It always gives everything, with no ifs and buts. Today, I can say that I no longer want to be private. Just like this tree, I want to give everything all the time. The sun always shines on this tree and the rain nourishes it unconditio- nally. In just the same way, in every moment, I am always connected to an eternal source of nourishment through the divine. What more do I want?
What does this mean for the upcoming projects at the EIAB and the The Middle Way – Daya Mullins Foundation, the construction of a meditation hall for 500 people at the EIAB, and the completion of the peace and meeting room in Gerode Monastery, The Middle Way? Here we are all called upon to give our best at all times. It is interesting to note, for example, that the completion of the 2nd and 3rd phases of construction at the EIAB, with, among other things, individual seminar rooms for up to 120 participants each, was not sufficient to accommodate the approx. 400 people who came for the New Year‘s retreat. This is a clear sign that we need to start with the meditation hall in the near future. If we give everything that we have, then we will succeed. If we give our energy, our know-how and our financial support, Thich Nhat Hanh’s vision will become reality. And I am convinced that we will succeed in turning it into reality. We are already in touch with the fulfilment of this task. We are not separated from the future – the future in which the meditation hall for 500 people together with the necessary toilets, cloakrooms and foyer is already complete.
The same applies to the planned hall of peace and meeting space within the old church walls in the grounds of the former Benedictine monastery in Gerode (northern Thuringia) for The Middle Way – Daya Mullins Foundation
“If we think the seemingly impossible yet nonetheless make ourselves available as instruments of the divine, then we will receive all the strength needed to enable this vision to materialize.”
Together we are strong, together we are more than the sum of each individual involved in this project. Let us give up our wish for privacy and allow ourselves the luxury of being part of a community, a sangha. It is up to each and every one of us to connect to the energy of the universe
“When we say yes, then the universe gives us the energy we need.”
Sometimes I think this sentence was created just for me. This is, of course, nonsense. But over the last few years it has accompanied and guided me. May the power of this sentence further strengthen and inspire us all. Love is the source of this energy in action, love in ourselves, love for ourselves, and love for everything around us. To express our potential is love in action, and it becomes visible through its expression. This is the effect of love. I am very grateful to all those who have accompanied me on my path and who continue to do so. You have helped me to become what I am. I am who I am, who I am. That means I don‘t have to become anything else, I can already be everything right now. The question which inspires me is: Can I say at the end that I have given everything, was I able to give expression to my potential at all times?
In this spirit I wish us all a blessed 2020 and the strength to master all the tasks that life gives us, so that we may also nourish all those around us.
In deep gratitude to each of you who reads these lines.
Source: EIAB MAGAZINE | Contributions from the EIAB and the international Sangha august 2020