Hargon, the devotee of destruction in the Dragon Quest series, took his spirituality very seriously. As one of the main antagonists of Dragon Quest II, he lead a legion of minions to summon his deity Malroth, a god capable of destroying all that exists.
The priest took his practice so seriously that when the heroes of the game confront him, his first reaction is “Who’s there? Who’s disturbing my prayer?”
I get that.
I like a nice quiet service as well.
There are days when a quiet practice is impossible at my apartment. I will be in front of my shrine, chanting or sitting, when suddenly all manner of noise will come booming from the hallway. Sometimes it’s a dog. Sometimes it’s jubilant children. Sometimes it’s a couple of adults in a heated debate.
It’s good to remember that practice environments don’t have to be perfect and that one should adapt to the situation at hand. That was certainly true at First Unitarian.
When I held services at the church, I would always have to adapt. One day I had to perform a service next door to a lively religious education class that was quite loud. Normally, our services included a period of meditation but I was concerned that the noise from the other room might be a bit too disruptive. However, I had an idea.
I asked the participants to sit quietly but focus on my chanting. After the session, one of the participants noted that the chanting helped her turn her attention from the noise. I was not sure if it would work, but I’m glad it did. This is how adaptation can be helpful.
The same goes for everyday practice. It’s not practical to expect some sort of perfect serenity. Sometimes a cat throws up in the sacred space.
It’s best to just go clean it up. One can chant and use a carpet cleaner at the same time.
This is likely why the Buddha emphasized action and mindfulness over ritual. In the Cunda Kammaraputta Sutta, he explained that through precept practice one was pure regardless of ritual. Likewise, in the Sarakaani Sutta he explained that, when simply remembering the Buddha, one would not “fall into states of woe.” Shakyamuni seemed to have a sense that the spiritual life needed some wiggle room.
So we can learn from Hargon that we should not take our spirituality so seriously that we become rigid and resentful of odd disturbances. Maybe it was Hargon’s rigidity contributed to his downfall. That and a determined band of heroes.
Instead, when we are pulled from sacred practice maybe we can just smile, laugh, or even utter a blessed phrase.
Namo Amida Bu
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