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Buddhadharma : Spring 2016
50 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly spring 2016 hold nibbana as a guiding prin- cipal or goal of their practice? AyyA TAThAALOKA: I don’t want to speak about “shoulds.” For those in my monastic community, as well as the practitioners who are non-monastics, there’s a very high rate of people who do aspire for nibbana, who are practicing for liberation. Having glimpses or getting a taste of that does really motivate and encourage them. Sometimes practitioners see that glimpse in someone else and recognize it, which then becomes the motivator. They know it’s true, they know it’s possible. One challenge is that people sometimes imagine nibbana as being like a faraway city, outside themselves, so they set up a strong duality and then want to practice really, really hard to try to get there. I feel that so much of right effort is to come back to ourselves and awaken within the present in our bodies, feelings, and minds. As long as the aspiration is projected outside, the grasping mind is like a long bungee cord forever propelling us into other circumstances, keeping us dissatisfied and suffering. So much of practice is getting out of that habit of perpetually seeking and grasping out- side ourselves. BuDDhADhARMA: David, how can a Shin practitioner hold the notion of enlightenment as part of their practice? DAVID MATSuMOTO: Many people come to our temple because they wish to engage in practices of fil- ial piety; others are looking for a community of friends; still others are looking for stress relief or conflict resolution. But I agree that an aspiration to practice the path of enlightenment is very, very important. It’s fundamental. In the Shin tradition we phrase it in terms of aspiring to be born in the Pure Land, which is in many ways a rejection of the status quo, a rejection of this world of suffering, of lives that are bound by ego and attachment and craving. This shift in orien- tation can bring benefit, such as a sense of joy and a transformation of our fundamental ignorance and foolishness into wisdom, and it can also express vir- tue in the form of living in gratitude for the benevo- lence of the Buddha and Buddhist masters, and for all others who give us life. I think that’s becoming more of a reality for people who are now finding out about Shin. BuDDhADhARMA: What advice or words of encourage- ment could you offer people about bringing an aspi- ration for enlightenment into one’s practice? AyyA TAThAALOKA: I see so many people living discon- nected from their hearts, from their deepest sense of purpose and meaning. This can be deadening, or at the very least dulling or disheartening. I also see many people whose lives—really, their minds—are fragmented and scattered. Gathering together our mental energies, bringing them together and unify- ing them, they can become clear, strong, bright, and whole. We do not need to wait for a near miss or near-death experience to come to this realization. When we see what matters and we know what is important, life’s meaning and what we need to do become clear. This is the real beauty of humanity and of a life well lived. We have this opportunity, and we have the incredible good fortune to have had a path passed down to us. We are the blessed Buddha’s heirs, or we can be, if we unwrap and open our inheritance. PONLOP RINPOChE: I would remind people to be pres- ent in every moment; enlightenment is simply the mind settled down in its natural state. It is freedom from our torturing thoughts and emotions. Even just a glimpse of wakefulness becomes an inspira- tion, an education. It helps the practitioner to actu- ally long for the true and complete awakening. People sometimes imagine nibbana like a faraway city, then try to get there. As long as the aspiration is projected outside, we remain dissatisfied and suffering. —Ayya Tathaaloka