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Buddhadharma : Summer 2009
43 summer 2 00 9 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly Historically, one of the main roles of the monastic sangha has been to be a tangible symbol of the separation of happi- ness and well-being from accumulation and stuff. There was an article in the New York Times recently about the plane that left New York City and went down in the Hudson River. Everyone managed to get out, but after the plane had landed in the river and everyone had to evacuate immediately, one of the passengers was blocking the aisle, reaching into the over- head bin. She kept saying, “My stuff, my stuff!” She wouldn’t leave the plane without her laptop or something. The other passengers literally picked her up and walked her out, because she was risking everyone’s life. That phrase, “my stuff, my stuff,” is quite telling. The monastic order is almost designed to be an affront to our cherishing of “my stuff, my stuff” above all else. The ques- tion is not one of amount—how little or how much—but what does stuff mean to us, and how are we relating to it? Is it creating harm? DaviD Loy: We may not have quite the division in the West that they do in Asia between monastic and lay sangha, but it’s the same challenge. Practice involves transforming greedy tenden- cies into more generous ones. buDDhaDharma: Some people are very hard on themselves for having not paid better attention to their money, but they also are bothered by the fact that they’re bothered. Sharon SaLzberg: Here’s where the dharma can address not getting caught in the game, in a conventional, or conditioned, assessment of what counts. It’s a time to appreciate real value, as individuals and as a society. John TarranT: The question is always, “Well, what is the dharma now?” The question isn’t about what you should or shouldn’t have done, or whether you feel bad about feel- ing bad. That’s not only ineffective; that’s delusion. Who’s responsible? We’re all responsible. That’s the world. Even if you’re complicit in the whole thing, and you were very greedy, transgression is one of the traditional ways of getting into the dharma. Look at Milarepa. He was a murderer. We always have the opportunity to start treating everything in our life as practice. It’s not about solving another problem. There will always be another problem. What is practice while I’m walk- ing through, enduring, perceiving, experiencing this situation? And then the situation resolves itself, or doesn’t. You get a job, or you don’t. Your money goes back up a bit, or it doesn’t. The first layers of practice are often about practice making us kind of comfy. It’s a kind of peak performance thing— I’m calm, my mind isn’t so anxious, isn’t that lovely? But the deeper layers of practice are about a big welcome to whatever comes. The degree of freedom is so much greater. DaviD Loy: I agree with what John is saying, but there is also a societal level to consider. It is important that this crisis makes (froMtoP):Pilarlaw;lizaMattHews;XavieruniversityPHoto:luKeolson