This is the letter we give to people when they take refuge. If you’d like to use it with your own group please feel free to copy/amend as appropriate and let us know if you’d like the Word version.
Congratulations on taking refuge. This is a big step in your spiritual life. Hopefully you’re already feeling the benefits of connecting with the Buddha. Here are a few ideas about what you can do next to continue to deepen your refuge.
Making space for your spiritual life
Living a spiritual life can go against the grain of society, and so we need as much support as we can get. Most people find it helpful to attend services and other events at Amida Shu groups when they can, and to stay in touch with fellow sangha members both face to face and online at our virtual temple, www.friendsofamida.com. You might already have a daily practice – if not you might want to develop a short ritual (chanting a mala of nembutsu or doing the prostrations chant) which you commit to every day.
Every so often you might put longer aside to spend a few quiet hours at home reading Buddhist books or doing practice, or to attend an Amida Shu retreat day or individual retreat. It’s important that your spiritual life fits in with the rest of your life (which may be very busy!) – don’t push too hard or feel guilty – just make little changes and as time goes on you’ll begin to feel the benefits of having the firm foundation of Buddhist practice and faith underneath all you do. You may also feel a natural impulse towards practising more – if so, follow it!
Contributing to the life of the temple and to the community
As we deepen our refuge, we tend to find ourselves thinking more about what we can offer to others. We might not be ready to save all sentient beings, but we do aspire to it, and doing our little bit does make a big difference to this sangha and to the wider community.
Ideas for helping out within the sangha are: helping out with events by making the tea or helping to set up or tidy up afterwards, volunteering in the garden, welcoming new people at our virtual temple Friends of Amida, becoming a bellmaster, becoming a Friend of Amida Mandala and making a monthly donation, writing something about your experience for our Running Tide magazine, volunteering to clean the temple etc. Talk to a priest about how to go about making these offerings.
Ideas for helping out within the broader community are: bringing the benefits of your practice to your workplace and family and being more calm and steady when there are difficulties, smiling at the people you come across in your daily life, volunteering for a local charity, bringing food for the food bank box, sharing information about charities with the sangha etc.
Our Introduction to Pureland course begins simply with the basics of Buddhism and goes on to look at Pureland Buddhist practice and philosophy in more depth. It takes place online and via email. If you want to sign up you will be assigned a personal tutor to send your answers to. We also hold Dharma Study evenings at the temple twice a month so you can ask any questions related to the course or hear how others are getting on. Learning more about the Dharma and why we do what we do can deepen your experience of practice. If you’ve already finished this, you might be interested in our more advanced course, Vow 22.
If you enjoy reading you can start with Dharmavidya’s books (maybe begin with The Feeling Buddha and Who Loves Dies Well) and our introduction to Amida Shu Buddhism: Buddhism for Foolish Beings. Use our library and recommend good books to others on the virtual temple.
Mentoring and sanzen
It can be helpful to have occasional 1:1 conversations about your spiritual life when you have questions or if you want to explore what you believe or how this affects you. If you’d like to have these conversations do feel free to approach any of our priests to arrange a sanzen, a short spiritual conversation. You can also ask to be allocated a mentor if you’d like to have more regular conversations with the same person.
Some people feel called to commit more deeply to a life guided by Buddhist teachings as a way of help others. These people want to enter the track to Ordination by becoming Aspirants. If you want to talk more about this, speak to Acharya Sujatin who runs the Ministry team or to Kaspa, her deputy.
Joining Amida Shu
Around a year after people take refuge we invite people to join Amida Shu as a ‘school member’ (Shu is ‘school’ in Japanese). This means becoming officially affiliated with this school of Buddhism and that Amida Shu Buddhism is your main form of practice. Shu members receive a wagessa, the ceremonial yellow piece of cloth with an embroidered Amida sun and clouds which we wear around our shoulders. It isn’t compulsory to join the Shu and some people are longterm members of group without becoming Shu members.
We hope you enjoy the continued unfolding of your spiritual life.
Namo Amida Bu!
Kaspa & Satya