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Buddhadharma : Fall 2015
fall 2 0 1 5 buDDhaDharma: the practitioner’s quarterly 21 cherished—kept intact by fear, aver- sion, and confusion. Because of that, it is more likely than not to morph into action and speech if not addressed through honest and sincere exploration. The thought that is constant for you is the same thought that is sometimes said to be most common for everyone: Get me out of here! “Here” is wher- ever you are. Changing the conditions of your life may mean simply exchang- ing one set of challenging conditions for another. Or it may mean facing a fear of stepping into the unknown by not trying to convince yourself that this thought is really empty, wrong, and not to be believed. It is impossible to say without a thorough investiga- tion. Can you communicate your dis- satisfaction in a respectful way without negating the marriage? Can you respect your spouse’s intrinsic wisdom without deciding for her that she would col- lapse? Finding the right questions to ask is one way to begin. sallie jiko tisDale: If you practice seri- ously, you will eventually reach a point of paralysis. You begin to drop pre- conceived ideas and doubt your habits, choices, and even your thoughts. You begin to doubt the entire fabric of your life. Eventually, your old ways of think- ing and behaving don’t seem to work anymore. There’s no place to turn, nowhere to go. Wumen said, “Arouse a mass of doubt with your whole body.” This doubt isn’t skeptical or resisting or withdrawn. Rather, it is curious and probing. When we pay close attention, we are filled with questions, and this questioning becomes open and recep- tive. This is the Great Doubt. It may feel as though you are frozen in place—after all, you can’t even believe your own mind. But you aren’t frozen. And you cannot stay there. Practice can bring a generosity and compassion that are greater than we ever imagined possible. We see the possibility that our life is really for the benefit of other people. We find it surprisingly easy to give up our time, money, and personal comfort in order to help others. The Jataka Tales (stories of the Bud- dha’s past lives) are good examples of how a truly spacious and loving heart can lead us to even give up our lives. In a way, that’s what you’re thinking about doing—sacrificing yourself for the sake of your spouse. But there are a couple of problems here. First, this is not an “unbidden thought.” In Buddhist terms, the only such thought is the thought of enlight- enment. Everything else is conditioned and dependent. Thoughts about leaving your spouse are based on experiences and feelings you have in the here and now. Start by looking at what is trou- bling you in your marriage. Second, you cannot know if staying married will be the best thing for your wife. You can only guess. Even that which appears devastating, like the loss of a marriage, can end up creating posi- tive changes for people. There is no way to know. Finally, you are also a being who needs to be saved. The bodhisattva vows don’t tell us to always put our happiness behind that of others. They tell us to save all beings, and that includes our- selves. Bodhisattvas are joyous beings. They plunge into the world of change and suffering with energy and cheer. An unhappy person is not a benefit to the world; he or she cannot be really gen- erous or kind. We should act without begrudging what we give, without guilt, and with glad and happy hearts. If you feel no joy in staying married, you are not helping your wife. You are hurting her by adding your pain to her life. How do we live, knowing the limits of our perception? How do we make choices? With care and patience, but also with open hands, accepting that we cannot know the outcome of our actions but must act anyway. You enter the Great Doubt and plunge into great possibility. You totally plunge in. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org