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Buddhadharma : Fall 2016
fall 2016 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly 49 making it to? Am I making it to the Buddha? No. I’m making it to myself. It all boils down to me. With or without precepts, as I start moving toward thoughts, speech, and actions that are wholesome, my wholesomeness will grow and expand. Although in the beginning it can be necessary to train with the mind exerting itself toward aspiration, compassion will naturally arise and we will be a bodhisattva in fact, with or without the label. BuDDhADhARMA: Is that benefit to others solely the result of our virtuous actions or does compassion benefit others on an unseen level as well? VENERABLE PANNAVATI: We could say it’s metaphysi- cal, but the Buddha didn’t talk about the metaphysi- cal much. He said that you have to have the expe- rience to know for yourself, otherwise there’s no point in talking about it. For example, the Buddha talked about unification of mind. The simple prac- tice of taking an object of meditation is designed just for that. The longer you stay with that object and become totally concentrated, there comes an experiential unification where it’s no longer you and an object. But how do you explain that to some- body? They have to experience that to know what it is. Similarly, creating the energy that has the power to release burdens and oppressions and to change the course of things through our actions is one of the skill sets that arises in developing qualities of the enlightened mind. But it’s hard to explain how we can be around certain people and just feel better. It’s like trying to define space—space is nothing in and of itself, yet things can be placed in it. That’s how you know space exists, because of what it can contain. BuDDhADhARMA: What does the path of the bodhi- sattva look like in our ordinary lives? ANNE KLEIN: It’s important to keep asking ourselves, Where is my bodhisattva attitude? Did I forget it? Today, for example, I was preoccupied about what I should say at a meeting. In fact, I was so self- absorbed, I forgot the larger scope of my concern. But when I can see, Oh! It’s not all about me, I can remember. In our daily life, we return to our vows over and over. As long as we have an ego, there will be tension around the question How can I continually be con- cerned for other people? Our best response to this question is to be keenly observant without being judgmental. We practice this on ourselves so we can be present to the gap between our aspirations and what we can manifest in this moment. Inshort,wetrytobeaskindaswecanandto understand what kindness really means. It doesn’t mean self-abnegation; it doesn’t mean letting people run all over you. We try to keep our hearts open and to recognize when they shut down; we try to recognize what makes them shut down, which is usually fear. Part of the bodhisattva path is look- ing at the fears that make us clam up, shut down, and collapse around our own concerns. The other part is being inspired by the possibility of dissolving them. VENERABLE PANNAVATI: The path is totally spontane- ous. You don’t decide I’m going to do good today and make a list of what you’re going to do. There is a knowing that arises and an attention that is commanded in the present moment, and you give whatever you can to offer help. Some approaches are almost contrived, as if we’re trying to make ourselves a bodhisattva. But when there’s a natural opening of the heart, we simply know that there is a need and respond to that knowing. “Open your heart”—we don’t tend to use words like that in the dharma. But maybe we should! We use words like “be mindful.” In being acutely pres- ent wherever you are, you can know what the need is before you and respond without thinking. When I encounter someone in need, I go with whatever my original impulse is before the thinking mind that protects me says, Don’t do something or Only do this much. Let’s say I pull up at a stop sign and I’ve got to trust that my understanding of what needs to be done is reliable and also realize that I won’t do it perfectly, that I’ll screw it up. —Ejo McMullen