I was a young girl who didn’t trust easily and who often needed help. The idea that there was a Pure Land out there where I could get to and sit with a Buddha to practice and learn appealed to me. I saw this world as very complicated and I felt fairly unsupported. I wasn’t sure how I could sort through all the noise and make any progress in this world.

 

By Holly Herring

 

I’ve always considered James Taylor a good friend of mine.

I’ve never met him, I’ve never seen him perform live, and I’m not related to him. But he has that one song, You’ve Got a Friend. Have you heard it? 

I got my introduction to Buddhism from Mickey Herring. He wasn’t a blood relative to me or James Taylor either. He told me once, “Holly, we are the best family. We are the best family because you and I chose each other and we weren’t just born into it. We are the real deal.” To my teenage ears that made more sense than anything I had ever heard in my entire life so I decided to trust this guy’s judgment on a few more things. 

When I met Mickey Herring, he had a 5 CD changer in his living room.

It was a pretty big deal at the time and he was proud of it. He had the same 5 CD’s in it for eternity. There was Steely Dan Gold, The Cure Disintegration, Bob Marley Legend, Peter Gabriel Us, and James Taylor Greatest Hits

I had heard James Taylor before but not quite as much as when I was at Mickey’s house. I got to know and love those five albums in his CD changer. To this day, they are my favorites and they soothe me when I feel troubled. 

The presence of Mr. Taylor’s lyrics in my life and the influence of Mickey Herring came together to make me a real supporter of Pure Land Buddhism later in life.

Wait, what? 

You want me to back this thought train up right now, don’t you? Okay, here goes.

You see, Mickey was the first person I trusted with my life. We trusted each other. He had some very Buddhist leanings and he read a lot. He had books on shelves and he would get excited telling me about each one after he read them. He would encourage me to read them as well. He had books by Lillian Rubin, the feminist, and I devoured them. Then he introduced me to The Tao of Pooh and the discussions we had became very deep. 

Because the concept of the Buddha came from this man I trusted, I felt safe exploring Buddhism as a teenager.

I experienced a few different temples when I began practicing. Where I ultimately ended up, however, was in a Fo Guang Shan (FGS) minor temple. This was a good fit for me. I had an English speaking Dharma Instructor named Tom, and he was easy to listen to and interact with. He translated books into English for the Master back in Taiwan who authored them. This is where I learned about Amitabha Buddha and the Pure Land. 

I was a young girl who didn’t trust easily and who often needed help. The idea that there was a Pure Land out there where I could get to and sit with a Buddha to practice and learn appealed to me. I saw this world as very complicated and I felt fairly unsupported. I wasn’t sure how I could sort through all the noise and make any progress in this world. 

But,

*Cue James Taylor Music on the 5 CD disc changer*  

If I just called out Amitabha’s name …..

*stop music*

If I called out Amitabha’s name and kept that in my mind I could enter a Pure Land, the Buddha field, and practice with the Buddha upon my re-birth. 

I think James Taylor prepared me for this with that song, You’ve Got a Friend

You just call out my name

And, you know, wherever I am

I’ll come running…

I practiced so I would remember to call on Amitabha

Winter, spring, summer or fall, yeah

All you’ve got to do is call…

And I kept my focus on that Pure Land

Hey, now, all you’ve got to do is call

Lord, I’ll be there, yes, I will

I thank Mickey Herring for Buddhism, James Taylor, and for family

You’ve got a friend

You’ve got a friend, yeah

Ain’t it good to know you’ve got a friend?

Ain’t it good to know you’ve got a friend?

Oh, yeah, yeah, you’ve got a friend

 

Photo: Pixabay

 

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