One day the Buddha was strolling along with his congregation when he pointed to the ground and said, "This spot is a good place to build a sanctuary." Indra [Hindu god] took a blade of grass and stuck it into the ground and said, "The sanctuary is built." The Buddha smiled.
As my teacher Lee deBarros writes, koans bring up living questions −
What is a sanctuary? Is it a place of personal refuge? Is it a community? A temple? A church? What is your sanctuary? When do we need or want a sanctuary? Is there actually a sanctuary? How does it relate to practice?
As we discussed sanctuary in our lives, members of our meditation group or sangha shared a manifold experience of sanctuary: our twice-weekly sangha itself, its safe, companionable and nourishing silence, and our care for each other when one of us is suffering or ill or departs this earth; The Redwoods, the community in which we live and share diverse experiences; our childhood homes and the homes of our grown children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren; the larger enveloping mystery that is often known as the presence of God in and among us.
I recalled vividly my life as a child, when my parents would come into my room to listen to me say my prayers. I told them that in the prayer that begins, "Now I lay me down to sleep," I was frightened and confused by the lines, "If I should die before I wake / I pray the Lord my soul to take." So my father suggested I substitute the lines, "Guard and keep me through the night / and wake me with the morning light." Seventy years later I still say that prayer as I ready for sleep, and remain grateful for my father's gift.