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Buddhadharma : Summer 2015
42 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly summer 2 0 1 5 and delusion. Without taking into account the per- spective of tradition, elders, and fellow practitio- ners, or allowing for authentic feedback—by relying only on our own views—we can become a distorted conduit, drawing attention with our personality or charisma rather than pointing directly to the dharma. It is clear that the Buddha taught both the use of ritualized forms, as in the founding of his order of mendicants, and the radical abandonment of attach- ment to tradition, as in his teachings in the Kalama Sutta. Ultimately, he likened his teaching to a raft, a vehicle for crossing dangerous territory. A raft isn’t empty space; it’s made of twigs, branches, logs, and various material forms that enable a safe crossing. Once crossed over, as instructed by the Buddha, we leave the raft behind for others. They may improve the raft, simplify it, or adapt it according to what is available and needed, but the point is to get across the river. This is the journey of Buddhism through time, space, and culture as it adapts to what is needed. There can be adjustment, but the basic structure of a raft stays the same because its pur- pose is understood: to move from one shore to the other, to move from dukkha to non-dukkha. We do this not just for ourselves but for the welfare of all. We may even be beyond the use of a raft, but still, we help keep it available for those who need it and for those who come after us. For me, all of this boils down to an inner dynamic in which I use traditional forms of dharma, similar to lights on a shadowy path, while at the same time deconstructing and freeing myself from those very forms. I don’t see any contradic- tion in this; I only seek the necessary tension for balance. Ultimately, I think Ajahn Chah expressed it best. His analogy is that Buddhist forms are like the peel of a fruit. They protect the fruit’s flesh. If you eat only the peel, it will be a bitter experi- ence. However, if you know how to go through the peel, you will know the taste of fruit directly. Here, doubt ceases, revealing the vibrant, middle way of the Buddha. THANISSARA trained as a Buddhist nun in the Forest School of Ajahn Chah for twelve years and later cofounded Dharmagiri Medita- tion Center in South Africa. She is the author of Time to Stand Up: An Engaged Buddhist Manifesto for Our Earth, forthcoming in August from North Atlantic Books. PHOTO | abhayagiri buddhist monastery AUTHORPORTRAIT|bryonysmith Cloth-offering ceremony at Abhayagiri Buddhist Monastery in Redwood Valley, California