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Buddhadharma : Summer 2013
SUMMER 2 0 1 3 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 83 consciousness, that we have this tre- mendous potential to realize the deep- est peace. That seems to me to be the whole meaning of this human existence. In giving and serving, I find social mean- ing. But I know all the issues of burnout. If giving is our raison d’être, if that’s all there is, it’s a recipe for disaster, because the giving is not balanced with inner silence and clarity. But if giving, self- sacrifice, is balanced with a sense of wit- nessing, wonderful things are possible. While taking care of my mother, I made sure I kept a strong sitting prac- tice going: every morning, every eve- ning, and at midday if possible. Sitting regularly can be very helpful, because you can always monitor where you’re at. With sitting practice you see, Oh, this is what I picked up today; this is the kind of emotional stress the body is feeling now; this is the kind of mate- rial I need to process now. That kind of maintenance work—awakening—is tremendously important for developing the path. Meditation done haphazardly or infrequently is better than none at all, but the deeper insights and understand- ing of oneself come from a really steady sitting practice. That’s probably one of the reasons why I became a monk—I couldn’t do it without the reminders and support of the monastic form. I wasn’t a very disciplined guy. It’s as simple as that. Lay life is hard because there usu- ally aren’t the cultural reminders of silence, of stillness; the common cultural reminders in lay life usually involve dis- traction. So when we come to a monas- tery, we really appreciate the reminders of silence, stillness, morality, Buddha, awakening. These reminders are what you need to bring into your home, through shrines, through discipline, through friendships. Sitting practice is impor- tant because there’s a stillness there, an inquiry and a presence that is edifying. It shows us a great deal and also builds a lot of parami, or perfection of one’s character, and a lot of subtlety that then plays out in the more coarse, difficult, and complex parts of our lives.