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Buddhadharma : Summer 2010
buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly summer 20 1 0 90 full scope. Nevertheless, by putting into practice the Buddha’s advice about how to wake up, we develop confidence in our experience of the awakened state of mind that entirely tran- scends dualism, although we’re unable to express our experi- ence to others. It’s like trying to explain to someone who’s never eaten salt what it tastes like; all you can do is name other foods people might be familiar with, and say, “It’s a bit like that.” When you finally realize the simplicity of this state, tremendous compassion for those who remain deeply asleep suffering the nightmare of worldly existence will arise in your mind. Although we can’t manage to fully achieve the awakened state right now, a glimpse is extremely encouraging for serious spiritual practitioners and helps increase our confidence in the path. Experiences that take us outside our ordinary lives can be particularly heartening, especially as the spiritual path is long, hazardous, and laden with doubt and discouragement. A glimpse of the true nature of reality has the power to make a permanent dent in our samsaric mindstream; at the very least it will serve as an appetizer for the main event. Once we’ve made that first dent, we’ll be able to inflict far more serious damage on the fabric of our samsaric life, and however small the dents and cracks might be, they’re exactly the result a dedicated practitioner is looking for. Imagine you’re on a picnic near a beautiful lake under a glacier. You dive into the lake with great enthusiasm and swim vigorously away from the shore. Suddenly, you become aware of how cold the water is and how cold your limbs feel. You stop swimming to try to get your bearings, but can’t see the shore at all. Your legs cramp up and your arms are stiff and icy. The seconds pass like hours as you play with the idea that you’re either going to freeze to death or drown. At the moment you accept that death is inevitable, a local fisherman rows by, drags you out of the water and returns you to dry land, where a warm towel and bowl of piping hot soup await you. During the time it takes you to recover, everything around you that you’d almost lost—your family, your home, your boyfriend—holds far more meaning for you than at any other time in your life, and you become acutely aware that no matter how much you own, death can strike at any moment and doesn’t accept bribes. Sadly, though, the shock wears off relatively quickly and you soon find yourself lured, once more, by promises of happiness in a material world. The aim of all Buddhist practice is to catch a glimpse of the awakened state. Going on pilgrimage, soaking up the sacred atmosphere of holy places, and mingling with other pilgrims are simply different ways of trying to achieve that glimpse. At Kushinagar you can do all the practices you do at the other holy sites, but perhaps the most significant one to do here is to contemplate Buddha’s statement about imperma- nence, and if you know how, to meditate on extremelessness or emptiness. ➤ continued from page 41 Join Joseph Goldstein on a Benefit Tour to Burma January 9–23, 2011 Trip costs per person for first-class travel: $4,000 (approximately, single supplement extra, excluding airfare to Burma) and $20,000 minimum suggested donation supporting the Foundation’s humanitarian projects. Take an unforgettable journey through Burma with Joseph Goldstein—a leading insight and loving-kindness meditation leader—benefiting the humanitarian mis- sion of Foundation for the People of Burma Email email@example.com, call +1 (415) 217-7015, or visit www.foundationburma.org for more information. Photo: Warren Wilson