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Buddhadharma : Spring 2008
buddhadharma| 41 |spring 2008 about mental illness and not enough treatment facilities? What about war? You know, what about the kinds of massive social suffering that we see in the world? Does cessation in Buddhism have anything to say about that? Andrew Olendzki: once again, I think it works at both levels. Yes, by all means, go out and alleviate suf- fering wherever you see it, by whatever means are available. at the same time, gain a deeper under- standing that any suffering in the world is caused by greed, hatred, and delusion. Ultimately, one can best influence others by setting an example oneself. GAylOn ferGusOn: It also helps to make a distinction between something therapeutic and something radical, something that goes to the root. the ther- apeutic model is about offering temporary relief. the four noble truths are a radical diagnosis. they are about going to the root of and then preventing the causes of war, domestic abuse, and so forth. BlAnche hArtmAn: one of the things that led me to practice was that I was fighting for peace, and I wanted to find out if it was possible to work for peace in a peaceful way. Andrew Olendzki: I’m an optimist. I think we can do it. I think we can perfect human nature. I think we can clear up all of the violence in the world. But we’re going to do it primarily by transform- ing the hearts and minds of human beings. on the one hand, we have to work on the consequences of their unwholesome actions. We do have to go out and heal the sick and feed the hungry, but, ultimately, what’s going to be more transforma- tive is changing the attitudes and attachments and aversions of individuals running the societies where all of the abuse and violence is happening. and given the interdependence of self and other, that has to happen in concert with changes within ourselves. a simple analogy from the early texts is that a person who’s embedded in quicksand can’t help somebody else in quicksand. You’ve got to step out and get on solid ground in order to pull someone else out. GAylOn ferGusOn: as practitioners, we make a long contemplative journey. We initially might hear the truth of suffering and the truth of cessation, and we might have some insight. then we might solidify that into a state, into a noun. then we will probably recognize the error of that, and over what could be a lifelong journey, going back and forth between cultivating mindfulness and devel- oping insight into our experience, we could come to see the simple and straightforward nature of pain. then we can work with ourselves and with others more effectively and with more compas- sion. that’s how we’ll put a stop to suffering. merliJNhoek