What a ‘Wake’ means
You will die, I will die.
What of it?
Presumably, after death either you will not be around to experience it, or you will be around to realise it was an illusion after all. (Either way is ok with me!)
People who knew you might hold a ‘wake’, which originally referred to a night long vigil, one part of which, in fact, was to check that you really were dead. But might it be more useful to think of a ‘wake’ as in a ship’s wake?
That is, a contemplation on the influence you leave behind you.
When I first read about Buddhism I was thrilled, until one of my work colleagues told me about a monastery several hours away. Now, did my interest extend to going to stay in a monastery? Would I have to wear an itchy robe? Would I have to sleep on a concrete floor?
All humans act in the world, and our actions leave an imprint in the lives of other people. Even if it is just the taxi driver or shop assistant. The more people you interact with, the wider your wake is spreading. You might not be remembered with a plaque on a wall, but you either made the world a better place, or you didn’t. Putting aside your achievements in saving the planet with smart inventions, the biggest part of your wake is your social influence on other people through the years.
I contemplated this one year after thinking I was going to die (through a mis-diagnosis). I’ve no interest in a ‘legacy’ in the way boxers or film directors are (Woody Allen said: I don’t want to live on in the hearts of my countrymen; I want to live on in my apartment.). But I do want to be able to die confidently; knowing that I have done my part in the world. But how?
As Buddhism is what consoled my dukkha, and has offered me a wise and practical way of living in the world – that is what I have tried to facilitate for other people.
The rules for being a Buddhist monk include attending frequent meetings with the other monks – this is called Wan Phra in Thai. It includes a complicated series of observances every two weeks where we ask forgiveness of each other and confess offences. These Wan Phra days were used in the forests of India to bring the monks together to discuss and later recite, the teachings. The emphasis was always on harmony and respect between the Sangha.
So this has been my contribution – facilitating meetings, talks and meditation events.
Your effect on others is often something you discount. You are quick to rate other people, but less quick to assess your own impact on them. Without support and encouragement from others, your practise will probably suffer. It is not easy to keep up a regular practise or reflection on dhamma, in front of your tv or interacting with family. So try to support what you consider worthy for those around you in return.
Your effect is something you should measure. Attending meetings and showing a friendly face has a big impact in support of others.
When I did pick up the phone and call the monastery all those years ago I was pretty nervous and ready to abandon the idea at the smallest obstacle. But a very nice man answered and gave me lots of reassurance. He seemed so nice, that I booked a weekend stay right away. I still recall his name – Ron. Thanks Ron, from New Zealand, whoever you are – you paved the way for my life calling! I never met you Ron, but that few minutes in a phone call was a big deal for me a the time, even though you will have forgotten it minutes after hanging up.
You have an influence on others. Even in the smallest gestures. Be sure it is a good one, so what you leave in your ‘wake’ is something you can be confident about.
So – a week before ‘teacher’s day’ in Thailand we will meet for an unofficial ‘Kalyanamitta’ day – reflecting on the value of Spiritual Friends.
6:30-8:15pm at Ariyasom Villa
Free of charge, and no reservation needed.