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Buddhadharma : Summer 2013
62 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY SUMMER 2 0 1 3 Does it mean avoiding conflict or feigning agreement with those with whom we struggle? No. In the relative realm of functional relations, we may need to assert a boundary, offer critical feedback, or make a firm request. But we can take our action while holding compassion for the complexity and difficulty of our shared human condition. Dogen continues: “At this time, you first know that the raft of discourse is like yesterday’s dream, and you finally cut off your old understanding bound up in the vines and serpents of words.” I take these as very specific instructions. The first step in arousing practice is releasing the grip of my story about who I think you are— yesterday’s dream—and taking the risk to meet the actual you. In yesterday’s dream, the vines of my words weave a familiar story, an identity. This raft of discourse gives me something to hold on to as I float along in the vast ocean of unpre- dictable human emotion. Why would I want to release my grip on that which seems to be offering me such protection? I don’t think it’s so much that I want to, but that I come to a place where I’m willing to at least try to be what Buddhist teacher Gaylon Ferguson calls “agents in our own making, in the emanci- pation of our minds and hearts.” Or, as Zen ancestor Jianzhi Sengcan writes in his poem “Faith in Mind,” Bring gabbing and speculation to a stop, and the whole world can open up to you. We can pause, take a breath, and allow the grasping mind to relax, even if just for a moment. And in this moment, something can happen that is sourced by direct perception rather than by preconception. This is where we can actually meet one another and together discover a more intentional path. Buddhist teachings tend to focus on individual practice. However, I’ve found that the act of step- ping back and releasing the grip of the grasping mind is equally liberating for groups seeking to arouse practice in the midst of delusion. thinking because I know he’ll just use it against me. The more I ruminate, the more I’m missing out on the chance to be with what’s real, to attain realization. I don’t know what’s real for you if I’m only having a relationship with the “you” inside my head. What if instead of ruminating and presum- ing, I actually engage in conversation with the president with the purpose of gaining insight into what’s going on with him? I may learn he’s strug- gling with how to deal with his position in the hierarchy, which gives him access to information that could feel threatening to others in the room. I may realize it’s not that he’s trying to hang on to power, but rather he’s unsure about the best timing and venue to share what he knows. It may be that he wants to be forthcoming but doesn’t want to create a sense of unnecessary alarm. Or perhaps after sitting on my meditation cushion fuming for a whole day about that darn retreat leader, I finally express my frustration in person, and we end up having a fruitful discus- sion about the pros and cons of formal and infor- mal practice. But generally, we don’t ask. We presume. And what can really start the karmic wheel spinning out of control in sangha is when we tell our story to others as if it were the truth. Then they, in turn, base their actions on our story rather than on their own direct experience. This is how we damage the fabric of our relationships with one another—how we dis- parage the sangha treasure. Yet Dogen tells us that at any moment, we have the opportunity to arouse practice. Arous- ing practice may be defined as “doing your best to enact your vow.” If our vow is to awaken with all beings, then arousing practice means seeing people less as problematic others than as fellow travelers who are also struggling with their own weaknesses and insecurities. It means activating the willingness to grow and learn together, right in the middle of the mess. Sometimes we do need to leave the sangha, or at least take a break. But we also need to explore more deeply the mind-set that helps us not give up on each other.