When I applied to formally receive the Five Mindfulness Trainings at the Nottingham Retreat in 2010, I was asked to fill in an application form. It requested the usual sort of details: name, address, etc. and then asked: ‘Would you like a dharma name (to encourage you in your practice)?’ and ‘What is your aspiration?’ I ticked yes to a dharma name, but what was my aspiration? It was a question than puzzled me for some time, and I only had about 24 hours before the form had to be handed in.
In the end I wrote:
“My aspiration is do what God wants me to do. In seeking to know what that is, I tried several denominations of Christianity and found my spiritual home among Quakers about 30 years ago.
My understanding of God/Love/Reality/Allah/the Ultimate and of what God wants me to do has developed over the years. I would currently say that I have an awareness of the Love of God within and around me and other beings, and that Love wants me and other beings to be what we truly are. I have long believed that the kingdom of God is available to us all, here and now, if we did but realise it. I was delighted to hear Thay express this so clearly during this retreat.
“In recent years I have had the opportunity to study at Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre in Birmingham, developing my knowledge and understanding of the Quaker tradition, Christianity, Islam and Buddhism. This has enabled me to offer my skills to support Quakers, and those new to Quakerism in developing their understanding of our tradition and in their spiritual growth. I have also felt drawn to greater involvement in Interfaith work in my locality.
“My contacts with Buddhism have greatly nourished my spiritual life, I feel it would help both my own spiritual development, and my contribution to Interfaith work, to make a commitment to the Buddhist path, in the form of the Five mindfulness Trainings, at this stage.
“I would like to commit myself, in particular, to using the practices I am learning to help others develop along their own spiritual paths, to listen deeply to one another and, especially, to help people from different religious or faith backgrounds to understand one another better.
“Thank you for making this opportunity available.”
I share this now in the hope that it helps to explain how and why I come to be a Buddhist Quaker, who sometimes goes by the dharma name Brightening Spiritual Light of the Heart. I really like ‘Brightening’ – it’s both affirmative and aspirational.