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Buddhadharma : Fall 2009
65 fall 2 00 9 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly others. If we are to alleviate the suffering of others—of all beings—it should begin here, with this person in front of us, with the peo- ple in our sangha. If it doesn’t happen here, it’s not likely to happen at all. If we’re to regard all beings as endowed with enlightened nature, we should view the people most present in our lives as possess- ing that nature. Once we genuinely appreci- ate that the people we practice with possess buddhanature, then we need to cultivate the aspiration to do whatever we can to help them realize that truth. We then realize we can’t confine such wisdom and generosity to our dharma friends. It becomes obvious that we need to open our hearts to every being, to the ten thousand things, regardless of their appearance and personality, their karma and background, their politics and lifestyle, what they do and don’t do for us. I’ve long felt that the practice of the sangha treasure is Buddhism’s response to the eter- nal human question: Can we live together in peace? Since it’s so easy to be caught in self- centeredness, we need to be very alert as we indulge our anger, or cultivate resentment or jealousy. In this way we develop tremendous patience, both with others and ourselves, as we open the heart of great compassion and begin to manifest harmony with all beings. To realize being one with the sangha is to realize that there is one body—one practice, one mind, one awareness, one realization— and so we let go of the self that creates dis- harmony, self-interest, competition, jealousy, and conflict. Lead the people and let harmony pervade everywhere. How do we lead the people? With wisdom and compassion. As Buddhists we know this, but how? How do we take this from an intention to an embodied truth? This is what the precepts—the shila—offer us. To embody the precepts is to manifest wisdom and selfless compassion as our own body and mind, as our own life. We shouldn’t think of “being a leader”; that’s just another idea to promote the self. Rather, just be yourself, your original self. Be true to your real nature when you’re standing and when you’re falling, and know intimately how to fall and how to stand. We should take chances as we immerse our- selves in the details of our lives and our world so we learn to do this well. To take refuge in the three treasures is not to go through life safely, hugging the leash. It’s to leap forward with profound trust in the natural wisdom present in all phenomena. Let us, then, each be honest and sincere, shaking off the constraints of gain and loss, success and failure. To let go of all judgment and self-clinging, to relieve ourselves of the burden of self-promotion and self-denigra- tion—isn’t this how we inspire others, and are inspired? Isn’t this how we can lead, by embodying liberation, demonstrating the Way, being the Way? Isn’t this being one with the Buddha, dharma, and sangha? These three treasures are our body and mind, and the body and mind of everything, sentient and insentient. They are the enlight- ened being, the enlightened teachings, and the enlightened community. If we have the oppor- tunity to practice within a sangha, to study the dharma with a realized teacher, we can easily forget how incredibly rare these trea- sures really are. We shouldn’t forget. Let’s cul- tivate a deep gratitude for the karma that has brought us into close contact with the three treasures. Let’s appreciate that the karma that often seems to bind us in our lives is the very same karma that has helped us find our way to the door that is always open. We often think of the sangha treasure in terms of the support it provides, but it’s more than that. It allows us to fulfill our natural, necessary, and inescapable obligation to others.