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Buddhadharma : Spring 2012
SPRING 2 0 1 2 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 21 For me personally, if I believed the ordained life were inherently more conducive to liberation than a dedicated lay life, I would have ordained long ago. Of course, to be a nun is very different than to be a monk; the issues regarding women’s ordination are yet to be resolved, and there is a significant gap in the support offered to monks and the support offered to nuns, but even so, I see the point of practice as a letting go of self, which I do not see confined to a particular form. Dharma practice is one of renunciation— in essence the renunciation of greed, hatred, and delusion—it is the renunciation of suf- fering. This is also an internal process. Can one conditioned form be inherently better than another, given that the realization is of unconditioned peace? For some, the monastic life is surely beneficial, for others, it may be a hindrance. It seems that people ordain, and stay ordained, for many different and complex reasons. Some have a real calling, while others wear the robe as an escape. Some people can’t practice without the forms and reminders of monastic life, while others can, and they do so with great dedication and perseverance. Does a form necessarily free one from attachment? Although laypeople have many attachments, and monastics may have just a few, the force of fewer attachments can be just as strong as many. It seems to me that while monks and nuns renounce the things of the world, the invitation in lay life is to pick up attachments and see through their illusory charm. Wisdom is the operating principle. If you practice well, the fantasy life ceases to exist, and one eventually prefers reality and present moment attentiveness to a life inwardly concocted. We practice in our daily life not because it’s prescribed, but because it’s the only authentic way to live. Whatever form is chosen, it’s essential to get behind that form with self-respect, integ- rity, and impeccable commitment. It’s always easy to fool oneself, and only you know been recognized as teachers in a ceremony referred to as dharma transmission) have rec- ognized some of their committed lay students as ready to teach and have done a ceremony with them, which we are calling “Lay Teacher Entrustment.” As far as I know, there is not an equivalent practice in Japan. I don’t know about other Asian Buddhist schools. In my view, the whole point of dharma practice is to live your life in a way that ben- efits all beings. We aspire to liberation not for any self-centered idea, but so that we can know more clearly how to be of maximum benefit. The Buddha gives us a pretty good idea of what we should be working on in the Metta Sutta when he says, “This is what should be accomplished by the one who is wise, who seeks the good and has obtained peace. Let one be strenuous, upright and sin- cere, without pride, easily contented and joy- ous. Let one not be submerged by the things of the world. Let one be wise but not puffed up, and let one not desire great possessions, even for one’s family; let one do nothing that is mean or that the wise would reprove.” With this as our foundation, we can begin cultivat- ing loving-kindness, compassion, empathetic joy, and equanimity—the four “heavenly abodes.” Or we can study and practice any of the great riches of dharma teachings, which we are fortunate to have so freely available in English in this century here in the West. For the last fifty years or so we have also been very fortunate to have access to many excellent dharma teachers trained in many different Asian countries, as well as their Western students who are now teachers. Let us rejoice at our good fortune and practice diligently as either householders or home- leavers to help alleviate suffering in any way we can. NARAYAN LIEBENSON GRADY: I want to begin by stating how much respect I have for those in robes. One reason I enjoy visiting Burma is because of the presence of so many who have ordained. It is beautiful to be in a cul- ture in which to ordain is ordinary. The teach- ings would not have survived without the ordained sangha, and for this, I am immea- surably grateful. Because of my gratitude and respect, I want to answer your question with great care. This is an ongoing controversial discussion in Western dharma circles. While monks and nuns renounce the things of the world, the invitation in lay life is to pick up attachments and see through their illusory charm.