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Buddhadharma : Spring 2010
40 We are human beings walking a path of liberation, and the value of community is linked to our fundamental humanity. As Suzuki Roshi said, “Buddha- nature is just another name for our human nature.” As human beings, we are strongly affected by those around us: we share in their joys and sorrows; we look at what is happening in our imme- diate environment and feel discouraged or inspired. Nowadays, evolutionary scientists tell us we are “hardwired” as social beings; it is human nature to be influenced by our association with fam- ily, friends, colleagues, neighbors, the communities we work and live in. The English word “influenza” comes from the same root, and the view here is that awakening is positively contagious: we catch each other’s wisdom and compas- sion, because wakeful examples resonate so strongly with our own innate nature. In the various Buddhist traditions, “sangha” sometimes means, primar- ily, the community of nuns and monks walking the path, but more generally it includes all those committed to wak- ing up. So we could extend this view of practicing in community—let us receive inspiration from the examples of basic goodness we encounter around us, from the people who are manifesting brav- ery and compassion in everyday life. Whether they are religiously affiliated or not, surely these are spiritual warriors, and our own commitment to cultivat- ing fearlessness is strengthened by their shining examples. Community: Extending the View of Sangha By Gaylon Ferguson When we appreciate the kindness of a co-worker or the thoughtfulness of a neighbor, we enter a virtuous gathering— whether we are in a zendo, temple, or meditation center at that moment or not. So, finding the noble community of the wakeful is in part a matter of perception. In this wider sense, traditional teachings on the supreme value of Noble Sangha are part of a “lion’s roar” proclaiming the fundamental goodness of all beings, encouraging our appreciation of the san- ity and warmth in the diverse communi- ties around us. Yet what about the neurotic confusion, the selfishness, and the greed we also see in our social environments? These too act as a mirror for us, reminding us of the strength of our own habitual patterns of delusion. There is something uncom- fortably familiar in seeing others’ acts of stupidity and aggression. Inner mindful- ness is sparked to take note of our own thoughts, speech, and actions—and their harmful or helpful effects. As Jamgon Kongtrul the Great wrote: “Seeing bad qualities in others is like looking in the mirror at the dirt on one’s own face.” We are all engaged in a learning process together, and the feedback we receive from others (even if not always egolessly pure) can be very valuable in guiding our journey. So the path here is to value our exist- ing connections, whether it’s as part of an environmental action group or hang- ing out with others after a strenuous yoga class. Our individual spiritual prac- tice bears fruit in these collective human interactions. The great Tibetan meditation master Patrul Rinpoche often greeted his students this way: “Has your heart been kind?” How we are with others is a revealing mir- ror. We should be somewhat suspicious of any developing sense of “personal awak- ening” that does not show up as increased compassion and care for others’ well-being. Wisdom shows its smiling face in the spon- taneous joy of being with others. 40 shining examples. yoga class. Our individual spiritual prac- tice bears fruit in these collective human interactions. The great Tibetan meditation master Patrul Rinpoche often greeted his students this way: “Has your heart been kind?” How we are with others is a revealing mir- ror. We should be somewhat suspicious of any developing sense of “personal awak- ening” that does not show up as increased compassion and care for others’ well-being. Wisdom shows its smiling face in the spon- taneous joy of being with others. ©ChrIstInealICInosandyMansFIeld I live in what I think may be the biggest metropolitan area anywhere with no Zen centers. no worries though. I listen to dharma talks from san Francisco Zen Center, as well as ones by steve Hagen in Minneapolis. Then I ride. When I’m on my Harley, I’m awake and aware and free. I have to be, or I’ll get run over. I try to maintain that mindfulness throughout the day. sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. When it doesn’t, I note it and return to what I’m doing. Between riding, reading, and listening to the talks, I walk the path as best I can. Walter Riggs Birmingham, Alabama I have never been a joiner. I’m mostly a loner, and I’m currently also fairly immobile with- out a cane or two (soon I’ll need a walker). I have decided that coming out of ritual- heavy religion as I did, the truest form of practice for me is simply acceptance and gratitude. no formalisms, no weird rituals. Joan Ryburg Cave Junction, Oregon I suspect that we unaffiliated Buddhists represent a major component in the cur- rent growth of Western Buddhism. I live in a major european city and, in theory, have many opportunities for practice in a sangha or group environment. However, because of the heavy demands of work and family life and (to be honest) a certain individualistic propensity on my part, I prefer to practice alone. I’m sure that attending group meetings would make my practice more disciplined than it is. yet, in a very important sense, I do feel that I am part of the ever-growing Buddhist community on the internet. Paul Barcelona, Spain