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Buddhadharma : Winter 2013
58 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY WINTER 2 0 1 3 PHOTOS(LEFT—RIGHT):WILLIAMKANDOJOHNSTON;JACQUELINEBENYES;BELINDABLUEBELL ELIZABETH MATTIS-NAMGYEL serves as retreat master at Mangala Shri Bhuti’s retreat center in southern Colorado. She is the author of The Power of an Open Question. AJAHN AMARO was co-abbot of Abhayagiri Monastery in California for fifteen years before being appointed abbot of Amaravati Monastery in the U.K. in 2010. GEOFFREY SHUGEN ARNOLD is abbot of Zen Center of New York City: Fire Lotus Temple and head of the Mountains and Rivers Order, founded by John Daido Loori, Roshi. has much more to do with what’s happening inwardly, with letting go of grasping and rejection. GEOFFREY SHUGEN ARNOLD: The term “renunciation” does not appear very much in Zen teachings and literature. But within the monastic tradition, of course, it is a part of daily life, much as it is in the Tibetan and Theravada traditions. In the Mahayana teachings, there is a shift or expansion from giv- ing up or renouncing certain things to recognizing that those things in and of themselves are dharmas; they are empty and have no “self-power,” and therefore are not in fact hindrances. So one would renounce renunciation, knowing that there is ultimately nothing that needs to be renounced because nothing is inherently obstructive. And yet this understanding is coming out of the lived experience of what we might call “practical renunciation”—working and living within a material world, with a material body and the desires that arise. BUDDHADHARMA: How do you think the teachings on renuncia- tion are holding up in the modern world? GEOFFREY SHUGEN ARNOLD: They are under siege. I recently par- ticipated in a conversation among Zen teachers about lay and monastic practice, and the question arose of whether laypeople can experience renunciation in the same way that monastics can. Lay teachers were saying, “Of course we renounce—we don’t get everything we want. We have to give up or give in to things all the time.” With so much of my training years spent in the monastery, my experience of renunciation was not just that of living a simple life, but on a much more personal level, of having the self stolen away. I had to renounce those cherished parts of myself that I was clinging to, which is a very difficult thing to do on one’s own. Of course I can renounce things on my own initiative, but I find it’s a different experi- ence when the teacher demands that I give something up. There is a keen sense of renunciation and struggle that ensues, and the nature of that release and expansion into nongrasping, the giving up of something cherished that is precipitated by the teacher or something outside of oneself, holds an incredible capacity for liberation. AJAHN AMARO: I would agree that renunciation as a principle is somewhat under siege. Culturally there is an ever-increasing surge toward getting more, having better, upgrading, which is intrinsically seen as a good thing, so renunciation doesn’t really get a nose in the door. There’s not much encouragement