This article by Rev. Mugo first appeared in the January 2013 Newsletter. It has been extensively edited.
When it is clear which project is being referred to I refer to F of M as the project, when it isn’t I use Field of Merit. Sometimes people say your project, thus ascribing Rev. Alicia and me ownership which isn’t exactly inaccurate, however inherent in thinking about F of M as ours is a possible practical problem and potentially a spiritual mistake.
When we were looking at other legal structures we learnt that founders of an organization have a particular standing and there are provisions to protect their original vision. It is recognized that the organization and its legal framework embody the founders’ ideas. So the founders have a place in the scheme, whether or not protected legally. Our specific role is to insure what we originally envisioned is carried forward. In that sense the project is indeed ours! We would be a bit surprised for example if somebody came along and suggested we open up a Buddhist bookshop instead! Or perhaps something less radically different yet none the less not within the ethos of what we envision. On this level it would be natural enough, as the originators of the project, to defer to us.
We wish to be clear from the start what our particular role and standing is so that others joining us will appreciate how we see ourselves in relationship with others who become involved. How roles are exercised, how we are with people, how we all are with each other demonstrates the basic ethos. Our intention is to function within an atmosphere of mutual respect and cooperation and to actively encourage this. When people ask, How can I help you? I think, How can this person help the project. There is a difference even if a subtle one.
When the Buddha was alive he would not sanction having images made of him for the purposes of veneration or remembrance of him personally. In one instance devotees pressed Ananda to make representations to the Buddha for them to construct a statue at the gates of the monastery. They wanted a statue to remind them of the Buddha while he was away traveling. The Buddha suggests that they planted a Bodhi tree instead to remind devotees of what he pointed to, liberation. The Buddha did not claim ownership of the Truth he discovered under the Bo Tree any more than we claim ownership now of what we understand Field of Merit to be pointing to.
The project has to embody what it points towards in the same way, as trainees, we aspire to embody the Buddha’s Teaching. At this level of discourse Field of Merit goes far beyond any sense of boundaries between people, of ownership or any such conventional thinking. In truth Field of Merit is pointing to what the Buddha found and taught. Thus we have the tag line on the website, Unfolding the Buddha’s Teaching. And that’s what, with good heart, we all are intending to do in our lives.
Finally, it is all too easy to lose sight of one’s original (spiritual) intention in our honorable efforts to help and be of use. Helping the project, doing things for Field of Merit, helping our project with a good heart is to help all beings, including ourselves.