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Buddhadharma : Summer 2018
ASK THE TEACHERS 21 where everything—even grief and sad- ness—is experienced with wisdom and compassion. That said, we might also ask why this question matters. Wondering what real- ized beings do or don’t experience may be an interesting mental exercise, but it doesn’t bring us any closer to realization. If we truly want to know the answer, we should pay attention to our lives in such a way that we become liberated ourselves. MYOZEN JOAN AMARAL: This practice is about the awakening of a human being. So when we speak of “realized beings,” let’s just be clear that we’re speaking about human beings, right? I believe we practice to become deeply human, not super- human. Although some of us may take up practice because we want to escape our suffering—imagining that through prac- tice we will somehow reach a place where we’re no longer affected by suffering—at some point we realize that if we keep practicing, it actually makes us more tender. So rather than reaching a point of no feeling, we feel deeply, but the stability of our practice trains us to not be blown away by what we’re feeling. We begin to notice that right in the midst of strong emotions, there is a part of us that’s okay, that’s not overwhelmed, and we can strengthen our connection to that part of ourselves over time. PAMELAZOMBECK I think it’s precisely that part of us that knows that when we push away difficulty, or deny it, or try to control it, we are still held hostage by it. Escaping that bond- age means learning how to be with our own grief and sadness—and that intimacy with the self is the key to being with the grief and sadness of others. The differ- ence for a realized being, perhaps, is the light of awareness that she could shine on her own suffering: In full awareness, I am suffering. And I will take that suffering and join with you in your suffering and, in solidarity, we will move through this. Together. In Dogen’s Eihei Koso Hotsuganmon, his ode to faith in practice, he says: “In this life, save the body which is the fruit of many lives.” This body, the fruit of many lives, holds our karmic stuff, stores our whole emotional life. And the body does not lie. What an opportunity to tell the truth of what’s really going on, right here, not leaping out into some spiritual- ized notion or whirling into a kind of marketing spin. Sometimes I think the Buddhist establishment has gotten so clever that we’ve become too smart for our own good. All our clever words can get in the way of the simple reality that we are, right now, in pain. Saving the body means using that pain right now— whether we’re “realized” or not—to connect with the pain of the world. Myozen Joan Amaral is the guiding teacher of Zen Center North Shore in Beverly, Massachusetts