Stepping Stones – 2009

Stepping Stones to the Future

Within the unity of all that is, the practical and the symbolic, the physical and the spiritual, blend in a multitude of ever-changing forms. For Buddhists, in particular, this is very clear, and is well illustrated in two events which have taken place at Three Wheels in the current year.

Stephen Montgomery, in the April 2010 issue of the Three Wheels Newsletter, wrote of the London Shogyoji Trust, its composition and its history. From its inception it has symbolised the fundamental principle of `unity within diversity’ which is central to the workings of Shogyoji and its many offshoots and associated Temples. It is a striking fact, within that context, that none of the four British founding members of the original eight-strong body, all of whom are still serving, are actually Buddhists themselves. Now the election, at the Twenty-First Trustees’ Meeting in April, of Andrew Webb and Andy Barritt, both of them Shin Buddhists and well-known and active members of the Samgha, marks a major step forward in the life of Three Wheels. It is also a stepping stone towards the future as the outcome of long years of tireless effort and self-sacrifice on the part of Taira and Hiroko.

In another sense, it marks a further stage in the process of ensuring contnuity and of securing the future of Three Wheels by introducing new, and younger blood into the Trustee body,which began with the appointment of Kaori Punwani in 2003.

Another less important, but nonetheless significant event, was the laying, with the help of Masayuki Ogawa, of the actual stepping stones in the garden of Tenrin Taya. Not only will they prevent the creation of an ugly and in winter, muddy track across the grass, but they also create a further, physical bond between the Taya House and Three Wheels itself. The obvious visual linkage with the stepping stones between the Buddha Shrine and the Zen Garden is, indeed, symbolic of the wish to bring the two houses ever closer together in a physical as well as in a spiritual sense.

It was extremely fortunate that, just when we needed them, we were able to find paddlestones of a related, but distinctive, form. Not only does the rain transform their pale hues into a rich golden brown, but they actually appear to shine at night, which is not only an attractive, but a useful feature in itself and proof, if proof is needed, of the part that serendipity, if we are lucky, plays in all our lives.

The layout of the stepping stones has been designed to make them seem to form a stream in which the predominant flow is from the terrace of the Taya House towards the gate that leads to Three Wheels and the Buddha Shrine, and it is hoped that for Shin Buddhists, and indeed for all the Buddhists, who may walk on them, they will symbolize the path towards that Pure Land to which all of them are travelling.

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