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Buddhadharma : Spring 2009
buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly SPRING 2 0 09 40 And when the time comes that we need help, we can accept it. One student asked me, in great anxiety, “How will I prac- tice if I get Alzheimer’s?” I responded, “At that point, you’ll be somebody else’s practice.” We can release our desire to always be in control. ajahn amaro: In the United States, the culture of indepen- dence is enormously strong, and interdependence is not yet well understood. Needing to be helped by another intrinsically represents a state of weakness and diminution. Our minds bring that notion into being and sustain it. But if instead we see the illusion of control, if we see that we’re never really in control, then as our faculties diminish, we can appreciate giv- ing others the opportunity to practice generosity. jan chozen Bays: I find people are glad to do that if they’ve quit relying on the mind and practice with the heart instead. When my mother was in a retirement home and then an assisted care facility, I saw a lot of old people. Those who were still relying on the mind, the discursive mind, and dredging up old stories again and again, struggled. But the people who had a warm heart, who could only sit there and couldn’t carry on a conversation, those were the people you wanted to be near, like a warm fireplace. It’s important to cultivate the heart as we get older, because that’s what will last. ajahn amaro: Father Bede Griffiths, a very lovely Christian monk who lived at Shantivanam Ashram in India for many years, gave a talk in Berkeley when he was in his eighties, and one of the people who attended asked him what it was like being so old and venerable and what his experience of the aging process was. He replied, “Oh dear boy, it’s wonderful. I was so erudite and had so many things to say and so many papers and books to write, and now I can’t remember a thing. As long as I can remember where I left my sandals, I’m fine.” He had developed the heart so much that he wasn’t in a state of distress over the fact that he couldn’t remember his quota- tions from the Upanishads, the Christian theologians, or the Bible. It’s just as important to encourage that attitudinal shift as it is to provide hearing aids and wheelchair access. PonloP rinPoche: It’s interesting to see how our labeling mind works. When does old age begin? Retirement age? When we first get really sick? When we lose our childhood friend? From the day we’re born, we’re aging and getting old. There’s no benchmark we can precisely define. xuBingwAswinneroFtheArtesmundiprizeexhiBitionAtnAtionAlmuseumgAlleryCArdiFFwAlesuk